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 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.
Today was a good day. While I don’t usually characterize my days as good or bad, I must say that today was the exception to the rule. I guess part of the reason I had a good day was the fact that I had a pretty good weekend. Traveled a few thousand miles back to the South and had a random adventure in the urban section of Atlanta with a friend and some others. Witnessed an altercation that could have quickly turned into a fight and did some advocating and mediation that actually had some positive results. But I digress. Today I got a chance to spend some time with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while and I really enjoyed it. As I grow older I have found that good conversation is a luxury that is often disregarded. While there are people I talk to fairly regularly and keep in touch with through phone calls or texts, there’s no substitute for a genuine human face to face interaction with someone I enjoy talking to. It’s a great feeling to have an intelligent conversation without constantly backtracking and feeling like you may be offending the other person and that they don’t understand where you’re coming from. It was also great seeing a familiar face because that rarely happens unless I travel a significant distance. I personally enjoy good conversations because they can be so enlightening and helpful. Those kind of conversations are even better when you have rapport with the person and there are mutual interests and a history of shared experiences. Those are the conversations that keep you awake, alert, and engaged despite just finishing your 12 hour shift and being beyond exhausted. Yup, it was a good day.
After working several consecutive night shifts, it’s safe to say that my sense of humor is similar to the one in this article. I know a lot of people right now who could really use some of the health benefits in the article by taking a break. Working in a windowless office can sometimes feel so confining and restrictive and despite the fact that the article is satire, there’s also a huge amount of truth to it. I wonder how many people would have better health if they weren’t so stressed out about their jobs. Don’t get me wrong, I love making money but I don’t always like the time and effort associated with acquiring it. There are definitely some times where there would be a legitimate therapeutic benefit of throwing my ID badge as far as I could and never looking back. However, that impulse is quickly counteracted by the rational thought that a replacement badge costs 20 bucks. Being in a field of work that is notorious for burnout makes you realize how important it is to take breaks. I’m in the process of figuring out the details on some trips I want to take this year and while it won’t be the equivalent of walking out my office and never returning, it will still be a break from it all.
I’ve always been a fan of strategic procrastination but also getting things done in time and meeting deadlines. Recently I’ve been putting off some things that need to be done within the next six week or they will derail my educational goals. While I have been in school for the past few years, I can honestly say that it’s more of a necessary evil than anything else because I want the credentials for my chosen career field. So one of the reasons why I’m still procrastinating with getting some of this work done is because of thought distortions. That’s one great thing about being a therapist. I know when my thought patterns aren’t logical–but I digress. I’ve always been someone who lives in black or white. While I am fine functioning in the grey for clients or for professional reasons, it’s different on a personal level. So the thought (which is NOT logical by the way) is that by completing what I have to do I’ll also be shutting the door or saying goodbye forever to another dream of mine that may not end up being compatible with my current choices. As I start the process of overcoming the procrastination and finishing some of these tasks, I have the mental picture of making a coffin. Cutting and sanding the sides and making some intricate designs on the sides. This coffin will be used to bury a specific dream that will be gone away forever never to return. But I know that’s a thought distortion and that it’s not really true. It can be so easy to get caught up in those distortions and not take the time to actually challenge them and i am no exception to that. However, the truth of the matter is that I’m just going to have to push through it and get the work done. And I will. Because of all the things I play around with, my life isn’t one of them.
I don’t know why but I really like this picture. While it seems a bit harsh, I think that there’s a practical application that can be taken away. I’ve seen people post the smallest details of their lives in various forms of social media. These actions have had my questioning how many people actually care about that stuff. While the message in the picture can be interpreted in several ways, it was a reminder to me that many times it’s pointless to look for constant validation for things that should already be occurring. You should not expect kudos for being independent and paying bills on time. Those actions are signs of mature adults. The problem is when people start to crave the approval and then become depressed when they don’t get it. Sometimes you have to work harder without expecting others around to understand or care. While that may sound harsh, basing your life and your goals on the approval of others in the hope that they’ll eventually care isn’t smart.