Saturday, February 21, 2004

Moving Forward

As you may note from the dates, it's been a while since I've posted. So much for the commitment to journal each day. I don't like to devote a lot of time to bitching and whining, but if I want to write about what it's like to be a fulltime graduate student and a fulltime teacher, it's probably not such a bad thing to spend a couple of minutes here talking about how hard that is. I've been in my program since March 2003, not even a year yet, and I have yet to be certified, which is a Union Institute sort of half-way milestone. Well, maybe not even half-way, but it will mean that my dissertation proposal is accepted and I can proceed with specific papers and classes and research. By no means am I off schedule. In fact, I am more on schedule than some of my peers. The deadline is coming up, though.

No laundry list of obstacles here, but I do want to philosophize a little about the larger meaning of getting a Ph.D. When someone has a doctorate, people consider him or her to be smart, an expert in a narrow topic (and sometimes, by mistake, in lots of things). I don't think earning a Ph.D. is as much a measure of one's expertise in that tiny, narrow corner of knowledge as it is a measure of tenacity, of staying with something that is impossibly difficult, that just should not be able to be done. As I write this, I think that maybe I don't respect the lucky people who do their doctoral work on a straight shot, right out of undergrad, with no financial worries. Those people don't have as many concerns as I do, I guess. I am talking about the majority of people who get the doctorate, who have to work at the same time, who have to finesse paying for it. For those of us in the struggling camp, this is all about tenacity.

I have the sense that my life lesson here is that no matter how stress-free I try to make my life, how hard I work to make it all fit in, obstacles will arise....CONSTANTLY. If it isn't a sinus infection, it's a work crisis. If it isn't a work crisis, it's an existential one. My mom had probably the best advice. She said, "Look, get used to it: getting a Ph.D. is hard. If it wasn't, every idiot would have one." That's true. If it were any easier, it wouldn't have its appeal, right? So I'm not bitching, but I am saying to you that this February, as my first year ends, I am lettering in strife, earning my stripes in the form of wrinkles, bitten nails, gnashed teeth, and gray hairs (lovingly covered by Loreal in extra-light ash blonde). And while I know it doesn't offer much in the way of money, power, or glory, I'm moving forward, if only to prove something to myself.