Not for the faint of heart

worth it.jpg

*Basic meme that I found on Google. #sorrynotsorry

Since my first blog post here, I’ve finished my course work, passed quals, become ABD, and all of the other “smaller” academic milestones along the way. I have even conducted meaningful dissertation research that I completely made up and directed on my own. I’ve not only learned how to write a successful conference proposal (something that eluded me my first year), I’ve even started being selective in which conferences to apply to because I don’t have the resources and time to present at them all. I’m finally an expert on something (my dissertation research), and no one on earth knows this one little thing better than I do (no one on earth cares as much as I do, either). I have failed bigger than I ever have in my life, and never before have I felt so simultaneously smart and ignorant. Truly, the more you know, the more you know you don’t know.

So, here I find myself once again, writing about writing, but I’m in a very different place now. In June, I moved out of my beloved college town in which I inhabited space for 10 years, and into my mom’s basement (the “lower level”, as she likes to remind me). Livin’ the dream, folks, livin’ the dream. As I occupy a very different physical space than I did four years ago, I also find myself in a different mental space, as well.

Four years have come and gone, and taken their toll. I know what it’s like to struggle, succeed, fail, meet deadlines, and watch them go whooshing by (in case you didn’t know that it was possible to cancel/reschedule your quals 5 times, it is). I know what it’s like to be depressed, and to relate to all of those articles about PhD students and depression. I know what it’s like to have such thankfulness in your heart for life circumstances that seem ideal for being a PhD student, and then have those other things happen…those things that completely shake you and you wonder how you’re going to make it through the night, let alone a PhD program…

Life happens, and it doesn’t stop happening so that you can graduate. You have to live the life that’s happening, and re-evaluate your plan… you have to let dreams die, and find the courage to let yourself dream new ones. It takes strength that you didn’t know you had (mine comes from friends, family, and Jesus). It takes humility…sometimes to admit defeat, but to ask for another chance…or to somehow ask for help, or at least take it when it’s offered. It takes community…I would never have made it this far without my fellow PhD students and academic mentors pushing me forward, or without the prayers and support of friends and family holding me up. It takes an eye-on-the-prize determination and grit that I don’t even know if I have, because I haven’t even finished yet.

My mom likes to remind me that getting a PhD requires sacrifice. When I’m sad when I can’t do that fun/responsible/grown-up/normal-person thing because I don’t have the funds/time/energy…when my life plan takes a nosedive and I find myself back at the drawing board and with no plan at all (a scary place for me to be) …I need to be reminded that it’s worth it. That I’m called to it. That it will be over soon. That I can do it. Every time I get to that low place, and I get afraid, a beloved mentor says to me: When was the last time you did something worthwhile that wasn’t hard? 

Anything worthwhile is worth sacrifice. 

Getting a PhD is hard.

I’m so thankful that I get to do this hard thing.

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4 responses to “Not for the faint of heart”

  1. Melanie Noell Bernard says :

    This was a fantastic post. I am just starting my graduate school career and there are so many things that weren’t discussed before I jumped head first in the fray, but I’m not alone. I’ve found people that are in the same boat as me, starting grad school and being lost. I’ve also found people who are in their second years and have advice to give me. I know it’ll be a journey. I know it’ll come with ups and downs (more downs somedays), but it will be worth it. I want this. No one is forcing me to be here and no one can do this for me. It’s on my shoulders and whether I succeed or fail (hopefully succeed) will be on me. That is what I call ‘adulting’ and I’m proud to have that responsibility, even with it being as scary as it is. 0.0 Thank you for your words! They are really helpful at this new stage in my life. Good luck with the rest of your research! You can do it!

    • nataliem81 says :

      Melanie, I’m so sorry I didn’t reply to this comment six months ago when you wrote it! I don’t know how I missed it. Thank you for your kind words! I hope your Ph.D. journey has gone as well as can be expected, especially as you hit your second semester. You got this! Just as an update, I STILL have not defended…hahah…queen of re-setting deadlines! 🙂

      • Melanie Noell Bernard says :

        Hahaha! It’s okay, and I actually am switching graduate schools. So, I’m in an off-semester at the moment. Starting back up in August and you will get there! Whenever you defend, you will do great! 😀

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  1. Four years later… | phdblogger - August 22, 2016

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