6, 12, 25: reaching the educational finish line
October 23, 2012 § 17 Comments
The number of years I spent in my PhD program.
The number of years I spent in higher education programs.
The number of years I spent in all educational programs.
Reaching the educational finish line is not always as easily mapped-out as it may at first appear. On that first jittery morning, standing on the hearth with plastic Strawberry Shortcake lunchbox in hand, plaid jumper and be-ribboned pigtails quivering, I grinned until my cheeks hurt. This was the day. I would get to ride on the Big Girl Bus, stay away from home all day long, and return with tales as long as my arm about the lessons learned in kindergarten.
I didn’t know, couldn’t know, that on that Day One I would embark on a journey that would carry me for 25 years. To the passive observer, my path was clear-cut from the beginning. I was the child who lined her stuffed animals up (and later added her younger sister to the group) in order to offer reading instruction, pointing to letters and imagining their chorused response. The destiny was obvious: this child will teach. So I carried that in my heart for 25 years, positioning myself and repositioning myself until that goal was no longer a shimmering possibility but a very real outcome. Although I was not a driven high schooler, I managed well enough to get into a good liberal arts college. From there, I buckled down, ultimately clawing my way into a graduate program in spite of unimpressive GRE scores, in spite of a decision from the admissions faculty not to fund my education with a teaching assistantship. A week before classes began, I took advantage of an opportunity in order to swoop in and take an assistantship from a graduate student who had rejected hers earlier that morning. I took a chance by applying to a single doctoral program, not expecting to be accepted; feeling utter joy, gratitude, and fear upon reading my acceptance letter.
Six years later, I have reached the inevitable telos of my path. My journey is not unlike the journeys of other people, and not just of the academic nature. It began with excitement and anxiety, maintained a level of energy and motivation for a while, dipped into nadir-depths, trudged through sluggish valleys, cautiously ascended…until I reached the summit, battered, bruised, but there dammit.
Have I wavered on my life goal? Yes. Do I doubt my training, my ability, indeed my own interests? No.
Yesterday afternoon I defended my dissertation.
I am no longer a graduate student.
I will graduate this December as A.Hab., PhD.