Two decades ago, I moved to a new city that I’d never visited before to start a post-doc fellowship. The work was interesting and the hours fairly regular, at least at first. When I arrived in the city, I wanted to make my walk with God a priority.
Last fall, I defended my Ph.D. dissertation, and in May I attended my graduation at Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus. My studies were challenging, especially since I was changing my discipline, from engineering to Science and Technology Studies (STS), which is built around a core of history, sociology, and philosophy.
It was 1991, during the summer between my first and second years of medical school. I was in the basement of a Christian clinic in Times Square. The clinic provided free medical care for homeless people in New York City. I was filling up a tub with warm soapy water so one of our homeless clients could soak his feet.
I once had a seminary professor who liked to talk about something he called liminality. The term comes from the Latin word limens, which means “threshold.” Liminal space is a place of transition, of waiting and not knowing.
As an aspiring psychologist, I was recently in a training session that taught us how to validate clients’ feelings—to show respect for their feelings, display empathy, and exhibit active listening so that they feel heard. While learning how to empathize with the feelings of others, however, I’ve also been reflecting on my own feelings, especially transitioning into my first year in a Master’s program in New York City.