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The Road to Dissertation is Paved With…

By Nadine Leblanc

Summer 2016 – And We Are Off

August 2016, I left a job I loved. Overworked and underpaid although fulfilled with having lived in my purpose for more than seven years. I left for the opportunity to complete my Ph.D. within a shorter period of time. Having already sacrificed a year and half being out of my doctoral program because of my works responsibilities, and staring at the big 50 right in the nose, my evolved and thus sagacious husband helped me make the difficult decision to quit my job and become a full time student (you all know I love my coins). The last time I was a fulltime student was as a lost teenager (17 years old) navigating the walls of THE MICO where I struggled to complete a teaching degree which I hated. That would be the last time I would also struggle with school, well, until this semester. I did not struggle at Mico because the work was difficult, but because I was too young, immature, undecided and pissed/disappointed at my parents to care about college. So, I rebelled by not excelling at what they thought was best for me; truly, it was less of a rebellion and more of a season of self-discovery, painful and far reaching.

August 2016- My Cheerleaders Showed Up

In that same August week of 2016, one of my FB friends (only met her once) challenged me to publish my posts in a book of quotes. During that same weekend, another friend in-boxed me about being inspired by my actions and words. I promised these friends that I would record my thoughts in a journal. I promptly started “The Road to Dissertation is Paved with Words,” I recorded many of my thoughts, the first of which is (since revised)

There is someone else waiting for the branch on which you have perched and paused.

Grow your wings, fortify your resolve and hijack the fear that prevents you from flying. Flap your wings with glee at your power, soar beyond your visible sky…

 

Some of these thoughts blossomed into articles and are now chronicled in Haiti Progres newspaper. Thank you, my friends, for challenging my insecurities and building my confidence to share my thoughts. For those who I can depend on for a daily dose of engagement on FB, What’s APP, etc. I needed you more than you know. Thank you.

 

Spring 2017- Not Today Devil

I struggled preparing for my Comprehensive Examinations, paralyzed with the fear of failing. If not for my newfound sisterhood with my friend from Kuwait, I would not have known where to begin. I took the exam, sat for days/ weeks enveloped in dark despair that only fear can elicit, waiting on the results. Coupled with menopausal onslaught, I was losing my spark, gaining weight (easiest thing for me to do) and falling into an abyss. Upon realizing that I was heading in a direction that I did not want to go, I halted the slide and intentionally built /rebuilt my basket of happiness. I made a vow that pursuit of a PhD would not cost me fifty pounds like it did a family member nor disrupt my sunny disposition like it did to my friend. I decided that I would GRADUATE, but, with my PEACE OF MIND and much less than 50 pounds gained. I asked my sister to hold me accountable; accountability is critical.

 

Fall 2018- It Takes a Village

I sat in my final face to face class- Advanced Statistics, expectant and nervous as hell. Having registered for this class four times prior, each semester withdrawing after the first class, I was overcome with insecurity, again like that 17 year old little country girl at Mico Teacher’s College in Jamaica. Like all four times prior, I felt like I was in Greece and only knew one word, OPA! I have done Statistics three times in previous degrees and gotten As, however SPSS and all this stuff was Greek to me. I could not withdraw again as this was IT! So, class one found me BLANK, Class two I was BLANK(er), Class 3 even BLANK(er). I began to feel the familiar fangs of my usual positive energy slipping into that slimy abyss where fear of failure resides, sucking my confidence daily and challenging my typical positive disposition. I decided this time to FIGHT! Self-talk- “GURL, you are not the only one who has taken this class. There has to be a way. Those others are not brighter than you.” I said it enough times to start believing it. After 24 hours, I figured I needed someone to teach me at MY level- a tutor. I started researching for one in my area; possibility was now brewing. After the 24 hours of self-talk and strategy meeting with myself on the couch watching “Big Bang” and “Family Feud,” I texted my Sister Circle (mentoring group started by my only Black Professor in the last four years). and then I found her: my Haitian sister, who would hold my hands and lead me out of that disgusting threatening dark hole into a brighter light of confidence where I could ask my professor intelligent questions worthy of intelligent answers. I earned an A on my midterms and I am three interpretations away from finishing this class. Thanks to my sista Queen.

 

December 2018- Won’t He Do It?

More importantly, I am alive, and like the sagacious matriarchs in my family would say “in my sound mind.” In addition to carrying a highly demanding schedule that included teaching undergraduate classes, conducting interviews, coding, analyzing, researching and writing my dissertation that added up to the WORSE SEMESTER ever, my family members would show up, unexpectedly every week, mostly oblivious about my struggles. I have spent countless weekends this semester being forced further away from the dark hole of doctoral hell because Providence nudged my family members, some I have not spent significant time with in decades and they showed up and provided elaborate shots of dopamine with their affection that prepare me for the next week. Thanks to my family.

 

Spring 2019 (Last Lap)

The most important lesson that I learned on this Road to Dissertation is that having peace of mind in the midst of the intensity that comes with reaching for a high-stake goal has to be an intentional. Research suggests that Ph.D. candidates suffer from anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation at astonishingly high rates (Wong, 2018), additionally, approximately 50% of Ph.D. candidates do quit prior to completing their degree. Despite the norms, I am grateful that I have not yet aborted the goal and I am not suffering from the emotional and mental issues too common to graduate students who embark on this journey. I think I am WINNING!!

 

The Road

My Road to Dissertation is paved with self-discovery, self-talk, self-care, a loving village and a garden filled with opportunities to grow. I need all to continue praying for me. As I embark in the last lap of this race, I am going to need, now more than ever, my basket of happiness and my entire village!

 

I know for sure that the only way to move ahead and away from stress is to MOVE AHEAD AWAY FROM STRESS. Acknowledge. Accept. Breathe. Think. Plan. Act. BE INTENTIONAL. REPEAT……..

 

Ache !

Reference

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/07/why-do-so-many-graduate-students-quit/490094/

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2018/11/anxiety-depression-mental-health-graduate-school/576769/

Jamaican born and raised Nadine L. Leblanc is an Educator and Cultural Critic residing in South Florida. She is currently a PhD candidate at Florida Atlantic University in Educational Leadership and Methodology. Email: nadshawl@gmail.com

 

 

 

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