This week I started my graduate assistantship, and soon I will begin my new routine as a full-time doctoral student. Ideally, this is my last degree.
“Terminal,” as many will assert. Terminal.
I will continue on to the Metro, where I will walk to campus and better understand this new personal and professional life journey. And as my partner reminded me a few weeks ago, I am about to start something amazing – something scary and terrifying, but ‘amazing,’ nonetheless. Fortunately, from pre-K kiddos to other doc-dreaming souls, I will not be alone.
“The first day of school,” is a rite of passage for many, and for others, it’s the reminder of a reality of education-based inequities.
“Is the student prepared?”
“Does the student have grit?”
“What will the student bring to our school, our program, our reputation?”
“What baggage accompanies the student?”
“Will the student survive?”
The idea of survival connected to an academic endeavor has always left me somewhat unsettled. At a previous institution where I worked, the reputable business school provided, “I survived…,” shirts to all students who finished their comprehensive exams. Related, my college experience housed a fraternity hazing process that reeked of, “JUST SURVIVE,” sentiments, and it has never been hard to see the connection between this survival-mentality and hazing. It’s surely there.
More than, “Will the student (I) survive,” as I start this new expedition, I am forced to navigate my own self-inflicted processing around worth.
“Am I good enough?”
“Is perfection enough?”
“What if I don’t deserve this?”
“Do I deserve this?”
“Surely, I don’t deserve this.”
Knowing all of this, and battling the worth-demons that swim through my brain, I continue to recenter myself by answering the following question:
Why am I going back to school to get a PhD?
For starters, curiosity guides much of my current perspective.
In separating a professional aim from my personal understanding, and perhaps more important than any other reason to press forward, I am training myself to believe and embrace the idea that I am good enough.
I am absolutely good enough.
Brené Brown argues, “Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.” She also posits, “Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together.”
“Imperfections are not inadequacies…”
The paralysis of perfection is so real for me.
As scared as I am of my imperfections (impostor syndrome, and all of that), I am more scared that I will lose some sense of myself along the way. This is where I understand the survival component to the academic process (“hazing,” as I previously suggest). And the idea of survival is not always present in the physical context.
Will I lose bits of who I am in this process?
Will I sacrifice my identity?
Will I be vulnerable to the parts of me that do need updating?
Can I truly embrace the imperfection?
This new endeavor is about more than survival, and it is certainly more than a quest for a perfect outcome or journey. This endeavor is about landing on my feet. It’s about understanding who I am, and what role I can and will play in this big world we live in.
For now, that is enough.
For now, landing on my feet is enough.
This is my peace, and I am enough.