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Summer 18

It’s crazy to me that I have not written a single blog post since January! Needless to say, life has been busy. I finished my first year as a fulltime faculty member and I am nearing the one year mark of my relocation. So much has happened!

My new location is gradually becoming home in every sense. There are some things I welcomed – less traffic, a lower cost of living, a slower paced lifestyle, and the kindness of my new community. And there are still things I miss about my former home, including my friends, diversity, and cultural experiences. But I am constantly working to adjust my expectations and see the wonderful things about my new home.

In February I adopted a fur baby. The first few weeks were the roughest as I tried to sort out how to provide a safe and secure home for him, while also enforcing the discipline he needs to be a great companion. Three months in and we are doing well. He still challenges me from time to time in relation to following the rules, but overall he is a joy. He loves to play and cuddle. He is extremely attentive. He forces me to limit my work hours and exercise more. And he has brought a great deal of joy to my life in ways I never imagined.

I feel fulfilled in every way in relation to my career. I have worked long, hard, and intentional to spend as much of my days doing what I love. I’ve found that. Being a faculty member is not without difficulties, but I enjoy being in the classroom. I love meeting students and hearing about their experiences. It is exciting to have a career that challenges me to learn each day and stay abreast of current events. And teaching in particular is one career that encourages me to remain humble: I don’t know everything and never will; there is always someone in the room who knows more than me about a particular topic; and being a professor is an ever-evolving craft – you can never perfect it. This I find enriching.

During the spring semester, I participated in the National Faculty Center for Development and Diversity’s Faculty Success Program. I learned a lot from this program and made some new professional connections. There are three primary questions I am taking from FSP that I’m working to incorporate in my life every day: 1) what standards can I lower today; 2) what ways can I treat myself each day; and 3) what do I need to asses and adjust? How can I continue to lower my standards in nonessential ways? How will I reward myself every day of my life for the work I have done and do? And one of the biggest struggles for me – in what areas of my life do I need to take a step back, reassess, and adjust my schedule, expectations, and/or tasks?

Otherwise, I am spending this summer focusing on research tasks, hanging out with my fur baby, and resting. As is typical for me, I wrote an extensive list of goals for the summer. I have since disregarded most of them. The overarching goal for this summer is to enjoy not being a student, not being a person packing up and getting ready to move, and rejuvenating myself enough to be ready for the next academic year. I hope to write more this summer – including on my blog :-). I hope to reflect more, including writing in my journal. I hope to spend more time with family and friends – new and former. I hope to share a little more of me with you. Stay tuned.

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Seasons Change

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seasons-change

This week I welcomed fall with open arms! After an adventurous, active, and somewhat rejuvenating summer, the end of one calendar season and beginning of the next seemed to bring with it much chaos and shifting in all areas of my life. New arrivals, deaths, sickness, and a whole host of other events happening in my family, friendship circle, and across the globe escorted summer to a frenzied end. And all the same, the new season brings with it opportunities to embrace change, new beginnings, and reasons to celebrate. While I don’t long in any way for a replay of the not so pleasant happenings of the last three months, I am reminded that there were many reasons to smile AND of the beauty in recreating. So here I am here and here we are just a week away from October. Ongoing dissertation stuff, a long awaited weekend retreat, a professional development conference and presentation, in addition to a wonderful group of students who I get to share space with twice a week all linger just around the corner. I’ve been spending more time journaling … a lot more time engaged in leisure reading and quiet time … more nights spent reflecting, reprocessing and rebuilding. I am taking more steps to embrace the new and carefully pack away what is no longer.

Hello Fall! Hello New Beginnings! Hello Opportunity to Recreate, Rediscover, Reinvent, Re-purpose, Renew … Rewrite another chapter of my life’s story. Hello World!

I Made It!

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Image result for comprehensive exam meme

The closest analogy that I can give to someone outside of academia of the doctoral comprehensive exam is that it closely resembles the Bar exam for law school graduates and the Boards exam for med school graduates. A student’s performance on the exam is expected to exhibit a satisfactory grasp of the program’s major content areas. Our program’s comp exam also includes two questions related to the student’s research interest(S).  Here is what we have: three questions; responses that are 12-15 pages each; seven days to complete.

I have had a “comps cloud” over my head this entire semester. I have heard grueling stories of students writing for 8 to 10 hours per day and hitting “send” right before the expiration time.  I had no idea what my questions would be like or if I would feel confident answering them in a way that would please my committee. What would it be like to write for such a long time each day? How would I maintain my energy and commitment throughout the week? What if I had some sort of freak accident like my computer crashing my files magically disappearing?

I received my exam last Friday at 5pm. I’d outlined a generic process that I wanted to follow so how I preceded. Friday was spent outlining and gathering resources. Saturday morning at 7am I got started with writing. I also rented a place so that I could be away from home, outside of my comfort zone with minimal distractions. My plan for the next few days was to write in 2 hour blocks, with a 30-minute break in between and a much longer evening break to exercise and have some downtime. The late evening hours would be spent editing and double-checking references. My nights ended close to midnight for the first few days.

By Tuesday I was in a much better position. I took longer breaks – an hour or so – and reintroduced myself to the world 🙂 (A few friends stopped by to bring snacks and to help me switch gears to other happenings). Wednesday and Thursday were spent wrapping things up and doing some serious editing. By Friday I did three rounds of “let me look at this one more time” to make sure I answered all sections of the questions, my responses were coherent and flowed logically and the formatting was as desired and required. I hit “submit” around 3pm (exam was due at 5). I could feel the weight of the exam lifted from my entire body ~ LOL!!! I felt amazing! I’d done it! And although the written portion still has to be graded and we have an oral component as well, in my mind I still kicked butt on what I produced.

In seven days, I cranked out nearly 60 pages – including references – in a way that I never knew or imagined I could. I wrote for longer periods that I ever have. I remained focus in a way that allowed me to be completely comfortable and confident with my final product.  I know that it’s not perfect, but it is my absolute best! I MADE IT! I SURVIVED!!!

 

When It’s Almost the End

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It is late so I am going to keep this short :-).

Image result for doctoral comprehensive exam

If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time, you know that I have been a full time student since 2012. It has been a long journey. It has been a taxing journey. It has been a draining journey. BUT I am almost at the end … of this leg of the journey at least.

On next weekend, I will start what  seems to me like a seven-day, academic hazing process: comprehensive exams. The process entails – as I have been told – eight to ten hours of writing per day for seven days. I am not looking forward to it. Two weeks later, we are also required to successfully pass the oral component of comprehensive exams. And when it is all said and done, comps successfully passed, I will commit 100% to dissertation writing … another year or two of the process.

Last week as I reached what I was sure was my breaking point and realized that I needed to take a serious step back to give myself both a mental and physical break. After a few days off and some much needed conversations with a number of people, I approached this week differently. I am moving slightly slower. I am taking deeper breathes. I am taking it one day at a time. And tonight, I paused to recognize that while this process has been and continues to be taxing, strenuous, exhausting it is a process that I chose and I am doing what I love … on most days of the week ;-). For this I am thankful. I am on a path that I have chosen. I have made a significant sacrifice in my life that I have no regrets about. I am pursuing my passions and extending myself fully by using as many of my gifts that I am aware of. For this, I won’t complain.

 

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Strength

I made it! No exciting or catchy tagline … no bells and whistles … just me saying that I made it through one of my most challenging semesters to date. 3 days a week with a 2+ hour commute; 3 days a week of not leaving campus until 6 or 7 p.m.; 4 days a week getting home near 8pm or later; hours of tutoring and even more papers to read, write, rewrite yet again. BUT I made it!

I feel accomplished, exhausted and invigorated all at once. And only in my truest fashion, I had a meeting with my co-chair today to discuss how to make the most of my winter break and small semester to not get too complacent.

So there you go … I made it and I am pressing forward ;-). #drcherrybound

The End …

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This week is the beginning of the end. It’s the end of my much-needed and long overdue vacation. It’s the end of one of my busiest semesters yet. It’s the end of my first semester of being back in the classroom. Yes, I still have to teach one final lecture next week. Yes, I have one last night of class next Monday, but this truly is the beginning of the end.

As I reflect on the semester and the year in general, I think about how often I wondered if I was going to make it …. through an assignment, through a class, through a life challenge. I think back to the butterflies in my stomach during my first, second, third – and every day thereafter 🙂 – in Epidemiology II and Biostatistics II. I think back to making difficult decisions to leave both leisure and professional development opportunities behind, while also having an unfortunate experience with an endeavor that I was elated to see come and (eventually) ecstatic to have end.

As I can say for more years of my life than not, this year, this semester and this season have all been very eventful. I have learned a lot about myself and endured much more than I ever imagined I could: two to three days a week of commuting two hours; four classes and 35-40 hours of work plus homework; traffic; poor nutrition; failing exercise regimen; re-evaluating goals and dreams. BUT I am still standing and can see the end of the semester. Thankfully, there is a wonderful beach vacation awaiting my arrival as I say thank you 2015 for an awesome year, thank you to my students for an unimaginable semester and thank you to my new favorite university for helping to mold me into being a little brighter, resourceful, focused and purposed. Here is to beginnings and endings …

A-MA-ZING

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Every now and again I meet someone and I am simply in awe! Most times, I had no prior knowledge of this person so my becoming aware of them is by some seemingly random event or introduction. Such is the case with Dr. Freeman Hrabowski. Dr. Hrabowski spoke at the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting last week and this is one speech that I will NEVER forget … take a listen: 

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