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Fertile Void: Life After …

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She Beleieved

For those of you who have followed my blog, you may recall that 2017 marks the 5th year of its existence. 5 years since my life drastically changed in more ways than I can recall. And 5 years since I recommitted to living out loud, starting with returning to school to pursue my passion of working in higher education. 5 years since I traded in the tangible rewards of a stable job with benefits for a passion pursuit with anticipated endless rewards. Throughout this time I’ve written through the ups and downs of my journey – the sacrifices and rewards, along with major shifts in every area. It’s been both the most exciting and exhausting 5 year-period of my life. And then it happened … exactly 3 weeks ago I accomplished what I know will remain one of the greatest achievements of my life – I successfully defended my dissertation and was announced as Dr. Me J! The moment I had been looking forward to, pressing towards, and focused on for much of this leg of the journey. A moment I will never forget and am working earnestly to continue to find small ways to celebrate.

Some say reaching the milestone of a successful defense is much like a wedding ceremony: months or even years for some are spent planning, organizing, saving, and deciding. But within a few hours the party has come and gone, everyone returns home, and it seems like your big event went by all too fast. For those fortunate couples, your life has changed in other ways. Maybe you are taking a fabulous honeymoon vacation, or moving into your first home, or welcoming a new addition to your family. Perhaps you are changing your name or relishing in the joy of having a forever-partner. Or maybe the thought of having new family members, opening gifts, and looking at wedding pictures serve as reminders of your new normal. I’d venture to say my defense and completion of the doctoral program parallels the experience of having a wedding in many ways. I have made small steps towards my dissertation for the last 5 years. It has been a labor of love and a body of work I am extremely proud of. I’ve spend endless hours writing, editing, researching, and refining. I’ve sacrificed attending events, celebrating major achievements, and spending money elsewhere as writing deadlines loomed or I was simply limited financially by having a part-time income.

When my big day finally arrived, a wonderful village of friends and former classmates stayed around to congratulate me after everything was official. Another close friend took an extended vacation to be with me throughout the week, forcing me to stay in the moment and not rush along to the next thing. The weeks that followed have been filled with SLEEP, catching up with friends and family, and wrapping up this semester of teaching. I feel like I have a whole new life in every way imaginable! It is wonderful to be able to sleep in without guilt of missing a writing deadline. It’s liberating to not check email obsessively as I wait for feedback from my committee. And it’s exciting to know that this is just one major milestone of many – I have so much to look forward to over the next few weeks and months.

I am so grateful for this time and after attending the Female Faculty of Color Conference last week, I am working intentionally to operate in a space of “Fertile Void.” Although I still have work to do – tasks to complete – I am focused on relaxing, resting, slowing down, and being present. One of the speakers at the conference described this as a time when we are ripe with possibility – fertile – but not filling the space with new projects. I am remaining in fertile void for as long as I can. Thanks for taking the journey with me J.

One Month In

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PhD

It has been a full month since I started my doctorate program. There are some lessons have learning for the first time, while others are simply re-visitations of things I have been made aware of time and time again. Here are some of my reflections from Month One:

  • This journey is definitely meant to be shared. From my classmates to family and friends to former professors, I see more and more just how much it truly “takes a village” to produce a successful  – and sane – doctorate graduate. There is no way that I can do this in isolation, so I continue to use all the resources at my discretion.
  • With so many competing options, I must prioritize … daily. There are SOOO many things I want to do: sessions and conferences to attend, speakers to hear, socials to partake in BUT I can’t do it all. I am making a concerted effort to conduct my life in this exact order: my spiritual, emotional and physical health and wellbeing are first, my family (including friends) next, school third, followed by work. All else – side hustles, extracurricular activities etc. – comes
  • What about your friends? Just as was the case with my last graduate program, I am constantly reminded of not only the value of true friends, but remembering exactly what a true friend means to me during this phase of my life. My friends know that my schedule is absolutely insane and appreciate the moments – however short – that we have. They don’t shut me out, while remembering that I can’t accommodate every invitation or request. They value my work, even if they don’t understand it.
  • My faith walk is vital. If nothing else – if I don’t get any of the aforementioned lessons – this journey reminds me of how important my spiritual care is. Rituals like prayer, journaling and meditation have served as enormous sources of calm and reassurance during tough moments, even in these first few weeks. I am reminded of what it means to me to have faith that things will come together, even when I can’t see all the workings behind the scenes. I am reminded that this journey has a greater purpose and that I am not in complete control. And perhaps, most importantly, I am reminded to breathe – there is an orchestra of guardian angels, ancestors and a Divine Being working this thing out for me. I continue to recite to myself “I believe. I believe. I believe.

Now&Later

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Now&Later

After all the excitement finally settled, I realized that I just signed up for 3 additional years – at a minimum – of school. While this is a prayer answered and a dream come true, I must also acknowledge that it further delays others dreams. As someone who has worked in the professional world and is now considered a nontraditional student, I know all too well the pleasantries of a salaried position, personal office space and employer-sponsored benefits. I also know what it is like to decide on a vacation destination and book the trip … without delay. But when my thoughts get too far away from me, I gently find my center by reminding myself that there are things that I will gain both now and later.

Through honoring my decision to return to school, I am submitting to an immediate future that allows me to pursue my interest areas and hopefully make significant contributions to my field of study. I am submitting to long-term future opportunities that I believe will fully allow me to use my gifts (see previous post) in arenas that I currently do not have access to. I am also riding on the certainty that my “later” will be better than any “nows” I have experienced.  With that I move forward – another three years. I promise to check in and let you know how things turn out :-). 

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