My Worry Story
Updated: Apr 18, 2018
Spring break has officially started!
I had a mild heart attack when I received yesterday’s notice that I passed my first review and received approval to “continue in program without conditions”.
Imposter syndrome, be gone! Get behind me, Satan!
I wish that I could lay my laptop down and say that this “break” will be completely relaxing and that I won’t be working on anything at all, but I still have a book chapter to revise, proposals to complete, and an online space to cultivate, so it looks like this break just means doing it all without having to attend classes in between, which is a blessing nonetheless, so I won't complain.
This being my final spring semester of doctoral coursework, my personal midterm advice to myself is to keep on keeping on. Yes, there were hurdles that made me lose focus, but there were more times that made me realize how independent I have to be in connecting my scholarship to my community. I’ve had my hands full with work for so long, but full hands should mean more resources and dedication to input where I came from, where I am, and where I’m going. My prayer is that when people ask me what I do and who I do it for (shout out to 2 Chainz), I can honestly say that I do it for us.
As confident as I sound, I have to say that I was a bit worried as I awaited the results of my review. As I sent texts to my sisters and parents about my results, one of my friends asked me a really important question after her "Yay!" She asked:
... but were you even worried?
In all honesty, a little. My actual text back to her was "I always feel a little bit like maybe I’m not as smart as they think I am lol. Like just a pinch. Especially with what I want to study."
And that is the most honest assessment I have given myself over the course of my time as a doctoral student.
I continued with:
"I write about Insecure and Girls for goodness sake. To make that sound “scholarly” in my first review meeting was very difficult when everyone there writes about reading and writing."
And that is the second most honest assessment I have given myself. I enjoy what I write about, and sometimes it gets very pop-culture focused, but it's what I want to do. It's relevant work, and talking about how much I enjoyed writing about it was really difficult for me during my review because I wasn't sure if the faculty would see its worth. But they did- suggesting that I submit proposals for publication and to further discuss the paper I wrote in front of real, live people at conferences.
I continued with:
"I feel like so far, this semester has helped me realize that I just need to really OWN my work, not just on the outside, but personally. I only value the approval of my department because it is necessary for me to move forward, but I never should have doubted it in the first place."
And while I know that scholarly achievement is a huge part of a Ph.D., I am also fully committed to making sure that my work ties back to home- Boston, Guyana, and beyond. I know the importance of reading, writing, discourse, and dialogue. I love researching the different ways that all of those things make a difference in the literate lives of people, especially people who look like me and whose lives are greatly affected by that simple fact.
And while I ended that part of the text conversation with "I just basically sent you a whole blog post in text form. Sorry haha," I thank my friend, Denisse, for continuing to be one of the many people who encourage me and push me to be all that I haven't even had the time to imagine that I would ever be. Her "Yas! Own the work!" reaffirmed my confidence along with the texts from my sisters, one of whom was once in a similar place in her doctoral program.
I can do this and many things not because of my own merit, but because this is where I am meant to be right now. I'm learning to own that, let go of self-doubt, and fully embrace the pats on the back that come along the journey to completing my degree.
Before I know it, I'll be done with coursework and working on my dissertation. Soon after that, I'll be on my own. It makes sense that I own my work and study what interests me because only then is there any meaning behind the long hours spent reading, searching, writing, revising, and reading some more so that I can be fully immersed in the knowledge that I need to make a difference.
The closer I get to the end of this thing, the clearer it becomes that I need to make every step, every milestone, and even the smallest checked boxes count. While few things have actually gone according to plan, everything is working out better than I could have ever foreseen, so I recognize that God does not intend for me to continue to worry about whether or not I'll be able to do all that I want to do with my work. That alone lets me know that there's no room for self-doubt when I own that I'm doing just fine.