This morning I was reminded of the fact that today marks a year since I defended my dissertation. It was one of the most nerve wracking experiences of my life and it was one that I didn’t really prepare for. You heard that right. I started practicing what I would say about two hours before it happened. I did horrible on the practice tries and my voice was shaking because I was so nervous. Afterwards, I just sat with a glass of my favorite wine and waited until I saw the email that confirmed I had passed. It was an incredible feeling. I wrote around a year ago that what I wanted to have a more permanent home base and that I wanted to seriously consider settling down. I moved several times and finally settled down and started working in my field. I started three new jobs and had an entire life overhaul. I’m a bit closer to believing that finishing the degree was worth it in the long run. I would still be paying back the loans regardless of whether I finished or not. I’ve traveled to several countries and decided to work a more flexible schedule. It’s been a roller coaster with a lot of changes. I’m still writing a lot but most of it is in response to my students and the traveling bug continues to bite me. I’m curious to know what the next year will bring.
Getting a doctorate was to date one of the most stressful projects that I have done. I balanced school with multiple jobs, moving across the country, and also trying to have somewhat of a social life. My dissertation class was a Pass/Fail format and there were a few times where I didn’t know if I would pass the class for the quarter. I would plan to get a lot of things accomplished every quarter and it would be so difficult to stay focused and write in the fact of competing priorities. It was the end of year four and and I hit a wall. I was tired of looking at a computer screen, reading articles, trying to sound intelligent, and keeping up with discussion posts. I don’t know what the final straw was but I was done. I wanted to quit so badly because it was just too hard. But one thing that I remember was the fact that I had spent so much time, energy and money that not completing would be a complete waste. Not to mention the fact that I would still owe money in student loans. I realized that I was getting in my own way because I wasn’t sure of what I wanted to do next after I finished. I knew that I wanted to teach but I had no idea about what the next steps would be. I was sabotaging my own progress because I had a fear of the unknown. Once I figured it out everything made a lot more sense. I gave myself permission to finish without knowing for sure what I would do afterwards. After this realization the road got a lot smoother. I finally started to get the approvals that I needed and things started coming together. Within a year and some change I successfully defended my dissertation. I say all this to say that a fear of the unknown keeps a lot of people from their potential. It paralyzes them from taking the next step because there are no guarantees. But in life there aren’t any do-overs. We have one shot to get it right and it only makes sense to give our dreams 110%. Go hard or go home.
I’m wholeheartedly convinced that most people don’t understand the blood, sweat and tears that goes into getting a PhD. For some it’s an easy process and for others it’s long and exhaustive. I first started at the tender age of 22 and I am nearing the finish line 5 years later. It’s been a series of rejections one one after the other. I once went back and counted and for just one phase of my dissertation I submitted revisions 39 times. It was crazy. I even had to change my topic which set me back as well. But I feel motivated to push forward and to remember why I started. I’m ready to transition into something different and possibly more fulfilling. I want to be free and I want something that allows me the flexibility to live wherever I want. Life goals.
Earlier this year I posted about the dilemma of finding a topic for my dissertation. I can honestly say that at the beginning of this thing I had no idea the time and energy that it would entail. Any advanced degree in the social sciences typically involves a lot of writing and this particular one has been no different. Two LOOOOOONG years of classwork have recently ended with the last class being a doctoral level statistics class that I thought I was going to epically fail. However, I passed by the literal skin of my own teeth with a “B.” While I like distance learning, I also like the interactions that come along with being physically present in a traditional classroom. While I’ve been consistent with keeping up with the expectations of my program and turning in my assignments on time, I haven’t taken it seriously. It’s been a time consuming hobby. Not because I don’t take my life and professional goals seriously, but because I picked a fairly broad concentration that combines work I’ve completed in other disciplines. The next hurdle is that of starting, working on, and completing my dissertation. Thankfully I’ve finally arrived at a topic and after 3 months of emails and subsequent rejections have finally finalized a dissertation committee. So now I can categorize myself as ABD (all but dissertation) in the scholarly world. I can add “PhD. Candidate” to my email signature and even apply for jobs in higher ed. An added bonus was the fact that I could take a three month break and still be on track to graduate on time. All that being said, one of the interesting facts I learned this summer was that only 1.9% of people who start a doctorate complete it. That means that 98.1% of people who start one do not finish. That fact is motivation for me to finish what I started and to add another set of initials behind my name. The school thing isn’t finished and won’t be for a bit but with some dedication and consistency combined by my decision to take school seriously at this point in the game I’ll conquer this last mountain.
As some of you may know, I made the (somewhat) dumb decision of continuing my education after my post-graduate program. So now I’m doing a doctorate. I’m a little over a year in and while I’m not crazy about school, I’m doing it for a variety of reasons related to increasing my credibility as a professional. Getting married would have a similar effect but I don’t believe in counting eggs before they hatch so a doctorate it is. Schoolwork up to this point has been ok. I decided that after finishing college with a 3.7 cumulative GPA and finishing graduate school with a 3.9, I wasn’t going to worry as much about grades in this program. I don’t know of one person who brags on their doctorate program GPA. People just care that you finished. Plus, a 70 is a passing score. The biggest part of doing a doctorate is starting and completing a dissertation. Basically a huge research project where you study a topic in depth. Who hasn’t figured out a topic yet? Me. I would love to study something fun but getting a decent sample for qualitative research would be incredibly time consuming. I’m considering the quick and dirty route where I pick something fairly easy that does the trick without me having to overextend myself. But doing this would mean that I would do a fun dissertation on my next doctorate or masters in some off the wall random topic. So I’ve given myself a deadline of February next year to figure out a topic. I know it will have something to do with couples, relationships, therapy, consultation, and effectiveness but I’m not sure of all the details. A topic that I could write a book on might also be something worth considering. But that being said, I need to figure it out. Soon.