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 had a memory that popped up in my timeline of a post that I made about four years ago. It was about making your own opportunity. This week I got an unexpected email inviting me to teach an additional graduate class. I was honestly torn because it was a huge time commitment and I have multiple trips planned in that same time frame. I love the opportunity to stretch myself as a teacher but I knew that it just wasn’t a good time for me. I declined the offer. As I typed out my polite “no” I was reminded of the fact that I’ve become more comfortable with leaving things that aren’t healthy for me or will conflict with my self care regimen. It still was hard because I’m not a fan of saying no to money. However I knew that it was the right decision for me. The next day I got the job offer I’ve been waiting on for weeks. It’s the stepping stone to my dream job and it was more in line with what I wanted to do. I’ve worked so hard to be a bit more untethered and it’s great to see a small return on dozens of applications.
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.
Not too long ago I had the experience of being flown in for an interview. I have to admit that it was an experience that I’ve never had before and I enjoyed the opportunity to travel without any personal expense. The position was for a job at my alma mater. It felt so surreal and full-circle to walk the same grounds that I walked as a teenager and be there in a different capacity. All my former professors seemed happy to see me back as a potential colleague. I met with the president and vice president. And all I felt was confined. It wasn’t that the position wasn’t nice or that I felt that it was totally out of my comfort zone. It was the expectations that came along with it. While I had a good college experience, it was also very sheltered. There were multiple rules that had to be followed in order to escape expulsion. While I had a genuine desire to give back, I realized that I didn’t want to teach or enforce rules that I didn’t have any intention of keeping. I appreciate people who are genuine and I knew that I wouldn’t be my best personal self if I felt conflicted between what was expected of me and my own thoughts and opinions. I’ve learned that sometimes the best professional decisions aren’t the best for me personally. I want to be fulfilled in a position but also feel that I can be genuine about my experiences and perspectives while learning from others. You have to learn how to say no to things that won’t benefit you in the long run. Now, to only learn that lesson about men…
It’s often suggested that when you start a new endeavor or begin in a field you’re not familiar with that you find a mentor. The point of this is to learn from them as you learn the ropes. These types of people are especially valuable when faced with unfamiliar situations. It’s easy to be paralyzed by fear instead of moving forward. I remember there was a playground contraption when I was a kid called monkey bars. The whole point was to move across only using momentum and your arms. Truthfully I struggled a lot with going all the way across. I would move to a few bars and then would hit a mental or physical block that prevented me from going even further. However, If anyone held my ankles while I moved across the bars I could always finish. A mentor can be a guide as you navigate though a new experience and is usually a good resource. I was recently in a position where I had to seek out a mentor of sorts. While the task wasn’t something that typically requires a mentor of sorts, I wanted someone who could both give advice and coach as I was in unfamiliar territory. The person had to be patient but also have the necessary experience I needed in order to learn from them in the most effective manner. I’ve learned that many times a hands on approach can be the most efficient way to learn because of the experiential aspect and the fact that it’s not a lecture of sorts. It’s a real lived experience that has memorable value. In my case, the person I chose was multi-talented and had both the educational knowledge and the experimental knowledge combined with the trait of patience. This created an optimal learning environment and served as a confirmation that the choice I made was the right one.
Recently I had the opportunity to present on a counseling theory as it pertains to couples therapy to a class of graduate students at my alma mater. One thing that was helpful in the presentation was that I had actual experience using the theory in my work with couples. Narrative therapy is definitely something that I had the chance to use a lot when working with families, couples and individuals. As a naturally nosy person, narrative therapy is right up my alley because it gives clients a chance to tell their own story. As the therapy progresses the therapist starts prompting the clients to express the problem in their own words as the problem. Very helpful in identifying root causes and challenging current paradigms. I say all that to say that it’s nice to be able to talk about a topic that you have at least a basic knowledge of. Coaching a role play as the students played therapists and acted out the theory was also really fun. Maybe I like the feeling of interrupting and inserting some bit of wisdom but it’s always interesting to experience how a theory can change the entire dynamic of the therapy room and present an opportunity for growth on the part of the clients. I’ve had some great teachers during my educational experience and I’ve learned a lot of valuable information that has informed the way that I interact with clients and has made me much more strategic. I say all this to say that this little dose of teaching was a success and teaching a class is something that I’ve added to my list of things to do just for fun (and professional experience of course).