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September 12, 2018 | Student Producer:

Patrick Hopper
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Dr. Bowman lets go of old identities and creates new ones thousands of miles from home. (7 minutes)
Dr. Bowman

Jonathan Bowman: 00:21 Um, so I went to UC Davis, a school of about 30,000 at the time, I think it was about 26,000. I learned quickly within the first, like seven weeks that I wasn't going to get straight A's in college and so I kind of had this weird crisis of like, but I'm the kid that always has great grades and so I decided that I was going to throw myself into activities and being social instead and so I got super involved with a ton of crap on campus. All of it good. I'm really glad I had the experience, but there was rarely a moment in college when I had free time, but I still had gotten this academic scholarship to that school. So I felt like part of my, my identity was still like smart kid, so smart kid that's socially engaged, knows a lot of people. And so I had this kind of identity that I'd built up for myself that really revolved around, like, markers that other people could put on me. 

Jonathan Bowman: 01:11 Like I won the cow milking contest on campus, which sounds stupid, but at an Ag- School like UC Davis, it was super important. Like, you had to get invited as like a student leader to be a cow milker. And I look back on that now and I'm like, I can't believe I actually went to the barn and practiced for many, many, many times. 

Jonathan Bowman: 01:29 So I'm this kid, I grew up in California. I'd spent my entire life in California. Um, but then I went to graduate school. So I moved from California to Michigan, which at the time to me was a whole different world. I mean it was completely different from what I was used to, completely different from what I was expecting. And there was actually, um, like I remember my first day getting there. Um, we went to Meijer, which is like their version of like a Super Walmart and a Super Target put together, I mean, this huge thing that had full restaurants and pet stores and everything inside this one store. And I remember walking in there and like walking by the meat section and the meat section of that grocery store was almost as big as just the grocery store back home. And that's when I knew I was in a different world and I didn't know anything. Like, nothing that I had learned in California would have prepared me, um, for Michigan. 

Jonathan Bowman: 02:24 I went from like being a pretty like smart kid at Davis even though I wasn't like 4.0, but like I was still smart, but just too involved to get good grades, to suddenly being just totally average. All of my weird little ways to get to know people and make friends in, that had worked really great in California, weren't working. I'd be like doing my best charming version of myself, and in Michigan it just wouldn't fly. So I probably hit my, like my personal low point in Grad school in January. So the Fall semester was, um like, oh, this is new and it's hard and it's miserable, but that's what Grad school's going to be. But look at all these interesting new, exciting things. Like I had never seen fireflies before, and, oh, what's this? It's snow. Like, why are people dress mostly naked on Halloween night going out even though it's snowing outside? Oh, that's like, you know, giant university culture. Like that's just the way that it is. So I had all these kind of new interesting experiences and then I got to go home for Christmas and like spend time with family and relax and reboot and then suddenly going back into that situation again in January and being like, oh, it's this again. Right. Like it's this again, plus with much less sunlight and plus it's like literally freezing outside. Um, and so I think all those things kind of combined to make it rough. 

Jonathan Bowman: 03:40 The transition from college to Grad school was probably like the worst four months of my life for sure, um, in a lot of ways. And I was like definitely not thrilled with it, but it also gave me a lot of time to think and figure out who I truly was. And it was really miserable, but really cool to strip all that away and kind of get down to like, well, who do I really want to be? Like I'm at a place where I don't have friends. I'm not the smartest. Going from thinking I was the most popular person on campus that was pretty smart and really good with people to none of those single things happening at all was a huge wake up call and it really forced me to think about my identity and who I was, miserable and amazing at the same time. It kind of broke down every preconceived notion of who I was, and then I had to build it up piece by piece. Not having any more preconceived notions of the self and being at a point of like kind of a really low point in terms of not having a support network locally that I could rely upon, really forced me to like think about, what are my values? What am I interested in? Who do I want to be? What brings me joy? Where do I want to go from here? And it also taught me above anything else that like popularity is super fleeting and when I started making friends and got to know a bunch of people and felt really confident in my friendships in Michigan afterwards, it was great to not care about popularity even if I was or wasn't popular. Like, at that moment, that's when I began to put things into, into a better context and understand who I was, and you know, I made some good friends that kind of helped me contextualize it. 

Jonathan Bowman: 05:10 I got involved with a group on campus that was awesome. I started going to a good church there, like, lots of little things kind of were little pieces that helped me to understand kind of that bigger whole. But really it was like hitting bottom or what I thought was the bottom at the time and then realizing like, oh yeah, it's okay. Like I'm, I can get through this. Like it's not great. It sucks, it's depressing, but everyone around me is depressed too. So maybe we should just like figure out a way to move past that. So like it was a lot of like learning to no longer be serving my ego or my resume, which ironically in the long run probably helped both my ego and my resume in some ways. But like at the time I had kind of like, been like, well, I'm not going to be the most involved person. I'm not going to be the most popular person. I'm not going to get the highest grades here. Um, what's left? And I was like, well then I guess I should just try to be a good guy. And so that's what I threw myself into and it worked out really well on like an emotional and personal level. 

Jonathan Bowman: 06:02 So I would say that, um, your transition should suck and you should expect that and know that's okay and that everyone feels that some people are better at hiding it than others, but it will get better, um, as long as you are true to who you want to be and aren't just trying to do the things that other people are convincing you that you need to do. Um, I think so many people get caught up in, like, moving to New York should look like Sex in the City or, you know, it should be like an episode of Friends everyday and like, no, you need to really figure out like who you are, where you want to be, and then start living the life that you want and know that parts of it will suck. Maybe all of it will suck. But if you're being true to yourself, it will get better.