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.
Like many people on social media, I was immediately worried when I saw the missing person poster of Nayla Kidd, a student in New York who had gone missing. It was almost as if she had disappeared into thin air. As is my practice whenever I see a missing person poster, I prayed for her safe return. She was enrolled in a rigorous program of study at a pretty prestigious university. I followed the case fairly closely and was relieved then the news broke that she had been found safe and sound. You can read more about her story in her own words here. As I read her words I realized that her reasons for wanting to get away were very similar with that of many others. Life tends to happen so fast after high school. You get into college, you start working a job and you are immediately thrust into a path that sometimes already seems pre-destined. You’re expected to make adult decisions that can have a permanent impact on your career and life. I could identify with Nayla’s sentiments of feeling overwhelmed and upset with the current direction of her life. In her situation, she made a very deliberate choice to take a break from it all for a while. She needed time and space to consider her options and make decisions that were more in alignment with what she wanted out of life instead of forging forward through labs and classes that she didn’t enjoy. I don’t fault her for this at all. However, I also can’t imagine what it was like for her friends and family who were probably worried sick about her safety and well-being. Last summer a former college classmate of mine went missing for a long period of time. It wasn’t a case that got a lot of media attention but it had a horrific ending when her body was found in a lake. She was a beautiful soul who left behind 3 kids and the entire situation was just so numbingly sad. I say all this to say that a lot of anxious, tears and worries could have been avoided if Nayla had felt she could communicate her displeasure in her current situation and let someone know that she was fine but needed some time away. However, those type of declarations aren’t always supported or respected and this was probably one of the reasons why she didn’t feel comfortable sharing her plans with anyone. I’m so glad her story had a better ending than my college classmate and I hope she finds what she’s looking for.
I’m going to be pretty brief in this post. One thing that I have really noticed in the last few days is the way that people use their titles. There are some people that insist on being called “Dr.” and others who are perfectly fine with just being called by their first name. One thing I noticed that was different about Colorado as opposed to the South was the use of titles. My teachers (all of who had doctorates) insisted that all the students call them by their first names. This was sorta weird, but also refreshing because it really humanized them. It became a “we” in the classroom instead of “us” and the “teacher.” I’ve noticed that people tend to make up titles for themselves. One of these examples is an individual who has received an honorary doctorate but still uses the title. Now correct me if I’m wrong but it seems that the key word is “honorary” which implies that they did not put in any work and did not complete the requirements necessary to get an actual doctorate. YET, they still call themselves by that particular title for a variety of reasons that may primarily be tied to the fact that they want recognition and credibility. As a doctoral student myself, I think I’m more sensitive to people who use titles that a. don’t mean anything or b. did not earn them. But that being said, I think that after I finish this degree, I’m going to insist that everyone use my title for two weeks and then I’ll drop it and go back to my regular first name. But then again, maybe not.