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’ve typically been pretty bad at celebrating my birthday. The last four years or so I’ve worked on my birthday and then took myself out to dinner afterwards. This year I wanted to something different. Originally I booked a cruise but then realized that I wanted something on a smaller scale. I went and booked a 4 day getaway at an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic that was off the beaten path. It was good to get out the country but also good to know that DR makes the 8th country I’ve visited this year. Which isn’t too bad since I decided to scale back my travels a bit. I had an amazing time except for the small fact that people who travel solo are often “invisible” so you have to hunt down the wait staff for EVERYTHING. I sat by the pool and the beach and had some amazing naps with just the sounds of the waves and an unlimited number of drinks. It was truly worth the money and the experience. Next years birthday vacation is booked already.
It’s weird to get a PhD. I know a lot of people don’t say it but achieving something like that makes you look at life differently. While my overall goal was to use the degree for higher education, I’ve found myself in the same field I’ve been in for the past 6 years. After all that time and energy spent and all the late nights and revisions and I’m not exactly working in my field full time. I need to have a strategy and to find out a way to maximize this new education level. This summer I plan to be more focused on having a plan and implementing it. I want to do more things and working on creating new opportunities. But I need to be more disciplined and consistent in order for it to work.
I can across an interesting article that coincides with what I’ve been thinking hard about these past few days. It’s about black people and wealth disparities. You can read it here . As the product of two generations of a middle class family (grandparents and parents), I don’t have anything to show for all their hard work. No property, no trust fund, no assets. Just a crippling amount of student loan debt. And I know that I’m not the only one in this predicament. Growing up, my father worked and my mother stayed home to care for us. She decided that she wanted to raise her children and homeschool us so she did. As a result, we lived in a single income household. A phenomenon that I’m experiencing now with my household of one. There are so many things that I want to do now but I won’t be able to because of my financial obligations. Transitioning to teaching or a post-doctoral position would require a pay cut of about 20k to 40k per year and I can’t afford that. This year one of my goals is to become more financially literate and I’m working on it. However, I wish that I didn’t have to start from the bottom and if I ever make enough money to afford kids I want them to have a different experience. It’s like I’m starting off at a disadvantage and don’t have the opportunity to at least start at baseline. Definitely tough.
The past few weeks have gone by extremely fast but at this point I’m at the end of my doctoral journey. It’s been a long six years and I can’t believe that I have been in school consistently since 2008. That’s an entire decade of my life that I can’t get back. I haven’t even decided to real if it’s been worth it. However, I think that so far it has. I’ve had the opportunity to work full time and live in multiple places while working on my education. But now it’s time to make new goals as the ink on the new initials after my name continue to dry. I need to find something meaningful and while traditionally I’ve found that in education, I’m open for a change. If I’m being honest, I’d love to spend some dedicated time addressing my rotted carcass of a love life but that could be problematic and it isn’t a guaranteed win. It’s a hope. Needless to say, I have to fill my time with other things than school at this point. It’s going to be weird not having a paper due or assignments to complete. Right now my focus is on my job search and figuring out where I’ll be living next. I want to enjoy the feeling of completing the highest degree that one can earn but it just feels somewhat hollow at this point. It’s not a letdown but it’s just weird. I want to start writing more on a creative basis and I’ve been doing better so far this year with making in-person connections with people. I’ve had the opportunity to reconnect and have already traveled to Europe once this year. I would love to do more traveling but most of all I think I also want a real “home base” for once. Like an actual home/apartment where I live permanently. I want my life post-PhD to involve getting settled down at some point and moving to a different chapter that could possibly include marriage and kids. However, it’s going to take a huge shift in focus and being deliberate in creating the life that I want. I’m determined but I need to plan so that I know the next thing I’m working towards. I have to fill this empty space of time.
One thing that has been nice about the past two weekends is that I’ve had the chance to travel a bit. Weekend travel is fun but tends to be rushed because you don’t have a lot of time to recover from the work week before you have to be at work again on Monday morning. While there’s plenty to do on the central California coast, it’s always nice to have a change of scenery. I had my first plane ride ten years ago and I’ve been addicted ever since. There’s something intriguing and cool about takeoff and flying in the clouds where you have a totally different perspective. Next year I plan to travel more as the majority of my time this year was spent in a cubicle on the third floor of an office building in metro Atlanta. Maybe even get a job that involves frequent travel. It’s so important to see the world and while it would be nice to have a significant other as a traveling partner, I’m fine with exploring alone. Time to plan some trips.
- Life is hard. It’s messy and doesn’t have any promises or absolutes. But it’s easier to go through those stressors having money. Just like it sucks to be sad but its more comfortable to cry in a Bentley than on your bike.
- Advance planning is important. It’s hard to make crucial decisions when you’re still reeling from emotions and you have to think clearly. It’s better to get it out the way and not worry about it than to scramble last minute.
- It’s important to take some initiative and find out what resources are around you. After all, it’s better to know someone and not need them than to need someone and not know them.
- Questions are good. Ask them.
- Keep an open mind. Just because things have been done a certain way for a while doesn’t mean that they can’t be improved or become more efficient.