My Life is at a Crossroads: Choosing a New Path, 11/16/11 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #55)

My life is at a crossroads (1).  Gosh that sounds so much like I’m posturing.  Oops!  I guess I am.  But as I write this essay, I have to decide whom to disappoint.  And I’m a girl, lady, woman, who doesn’t like to disappoint anyone.

I may have mentioned that I’ve been pursuing my doctorate–my Ph.D. in an education field–while working full time and also performing community service through creating educational programming.   I have a wonderfully supportive husband who has encouraged me throughout my doctoral classes and comps.  How supportive?   He would watch his tv programs with the sound off and the captioning on so that we could at least be in the same room as I studied–since reading 200 – 300 pages of research articles and books each week takes concentration and silence.  I should also add that I just negotiated with him about not turning on the tv for another hour so that I could write this essay post in silence.  He is such a dear man.  But pursuing my doctoral studies has been a grueling marathon.  Now, I’m ABD.  No, that doesn’t mean “all but dead”.  Though it sometimes feels that way.  Ha!  ABD means “all but dissertation”.

A dissertation is a really long research paper (2) that you write after you conduct a really long research project.  It and you get evaluated.  Having gone through this process in micro for my master’s degree almost thirty years ago–I can sense that you’re whipping out your calculators to figure out my age–I know the hoops (3) one has to jump through in graduate school.  It’s academic “hazing” on a small scale.  Though sometimes, not so small.  Your professors were put through the ringer (4) when they studied for their degrees, so they feel like they have to do it to you–to make you feel like you climbed a mountain and overcame great hurdles.  Little did they know that the hurdles were all them–my doctoral studies professor mentors excepted.

So, I began my doctoral studies nine years ago.  At first, it was interesting being considered a “part time” student while taking “two” classes each semester toward my 60 credit hrs of class work that would then be supplemented with a 15 credit hour dissertation research project, when “full time” students took “three classes” and didn’t work full time and have family and community service commitments to fulfill like I did.  Eventually, the part time status label began to wear on me–because it sure didn’t feel like I was studying part time to me.  Yet there were academic hoops to be jumped–and my knees and ankles aren’t as limber as they used to be.

In particular, there is something called a “residency requirement” that I had to meet.  I had to take five classes within an 18 month period to show that I was serious about my doctoral studies.  But, I had to take the classes in a certain combination.  That meant taking three doctoral classes in any Fall or Spring semester and or two classes during an accelerated Summer semester–as if I were a “full time” student, not a part time student.  No problem, I was up for it–until they cancelled a few of the classes I wanted to take and I had to reshuffle my academic plan of study.  Unfortunately, the fact that most graduate schools (including mine) had long since done away with the residency requirement as being arcane in an era when people recareered–let alone that my doctoral program specifically caters to in situ working educational professions–didn’t phase my doctoral department, which kept right on requiring it.  Nor did my several (about seven in all I think) conference presentations about the three research pilot studies I conducted–all with IRB level approvals in place–and presentations to educators during a Summer professional development workshop seem to convey to my department the seriousness I had about my studies.  No, I had to follow and meet the rules.  So, I met the residency requirement of course registration pattern, of course.  There was no way around it.  Though I did manage to work in an educational policy paper I wrote that advocated for the requirement’s abolishment.  I earned an “A” on my paper–small comfort.

In fact, I’ve worked my tush off for my doctoral studies–all evidence to the contrary if you look at my tush today–earning straight “A’s” in all of my doctoral courses.  And no, they don’t just give “A” grades away, as some of my less focused doctoral student friends learned the hard way.  I’ve striven for excellence and never wavered.  So what’s my point with this essay?  I’m wavering.  You see, I haven’t really worked on my dissertation research proposal for two years, except for collecting articles as I come across them–though I have narrowed my topic down to what I think is manageable.  But in this narrowing process, it means that I will have to do a mountain of meta analysis research (5) all over again for this new research direction in order to provide more current references–currency is what they call it.

And today, my Dissertation Committee Chair and my Doctoral Department Chair made an appointment with me for after the Thanksgiving Holidays to discuss how to facilitate my completing what I started–my doctorate.  But, since I’m past the 8 years of the graduate school timeline for full time doctoral students–they don’t have an extended timeline for part time doctoral students, we just have to suck it up (please pardon my language)–I have to prove that I’ve made progress.  From where I’m sitting now, I can see into my dining room–we have an open floor plan one story ranch house home–with my doctoral research project resources (printed articles and books) lined up on two six foot tables–my Duncan Phyfe dining table (6) and a large heavy folding table–and gathering dust.   When my friends have nicely asked how I was coming along and when I would be finished, I would joke and say “Before the world ends in December 2012”.  Hey, I want to reclaim my dining room for its intended purpose.  Ha!

But my crossroads–that I’m finally getting around to talking about more directly in this essay, because I am a verbose girl–are that my creative writing of my script stories that I began 1.5 years ago to “jump start” my dissertation writing, has completely become my writing focus.  And I’m having a blast writing my script stories, facilitating a discussion group about RA, and blogging here!   I just have to figure out how to tell my Dissertation Committee Chair and my Doctoral Department Chairperson–let alone everyone else–that though I would love to finish my doctorate, it has to be a less painful process for me if it’s really going to happen.  Though I continue to coordinate and help organize several community educational programs that were the impetus for beginning my doctoral studies–my  self-expression and intellectual joy these days is in my creative writing, not my academic writing.  My script stories just tumble out of me and I have to write them down and tell my characters’ stories.  I’ve always loved literature and performed it in college for four years.  So, my creative writing–I hope–is the start of the next and a new career phase for me.

And, I have to own up to and embrace this shift in my perspectives with my doctoral mentors and others.  My creative writing path that I have chosen is by no means certain of any kind of recognition or success for me.  Yet, I’m willing to see where the wind takes me–scary and unplotted though that path may be.   And, I haven’t done anything truly scary ever in my life, so now feels like a good time to live on the edge.  Carpe diem (7) as the saying goes.  Creative writing is what I feel that I need to do in my life now–it’s my “second act” to use an artistic metaphor.  Because the person that I do not want to disappoint most of all, is me.

P.S.  Oh, and, if my gal pals and I can save our pennies, we will gather together celebrating a certain “World’s Tallest Dwarf” (8) and his debut onto the world’s artistic stage in December 2012–not the end of the world, but a new beginning.

P.S. So on that note of new beginnings, here is a fun video about just that.  This  link (9) is to a music video I produced featuring the song “The Time of My Life” about the amazing year that the exquisitely talented British Actor Richard Crispin Armitage had from September 2010 through August 2011.  But, the song could also be my anthem, because I have had the time of my life, too, this past 1.5 years.  And my life keeps getting bettah.


(1)     UPDATE, 2/26/12–I chose this crossroads scene–as opposed to a paved road–because I love unspoiled nature.  The crossroads image should be attributed to the wonderful artist photographer Martin Liebermann and is found at his site   My thanks to Mr. Liebermann for kindly making me aware that I had a secondary listing for his image and him providing the corrected image link.  His note appears below in the comments section.  Mr. Liebermann says that the image was taken “in a forest that crosses Bielefeld, the German town I live in.”  Thanks! 

(2)      I’m guessing that my readers already figured out from my other essays that I have a higher education background since I always cite the image and media resources I use–and I cite quotations and paraphrases referenced in my essay and story posts with information about their original resources.  These references aren’t formatted in strict APA style format.  But my having citations just shows you that I’m an academic geekette.  However, my dogged source citation also reflects that I’m deeply concerned about respecting other people’s intellectual property and art–and that I want to guide you to these people’s web sites where you can find out more about their work.

(3)     “Hoop jumping” is an American colloquial expression referring to having to overcome obstacles in one’s path.  The analogy is that of jumping through hoops or hurdles in track and field.  This is just my explanation of the concept.

(4)     “Being put through the ringer” is an American colloquial expression referring to having to endure something extremely unpleasant.  The “ringer” being referred to in this analogy is an old time hand crank washing machine where you literally squeezed the water out of your clothes before hanging them up to dry.  This is just my explanation of the concept.    The old time washing machine image was found at

(5)     “Meta analysis research” refers to reading, evaluating, synthesizing and distilling the essence of other people’s research work into a comparative research essay of about 150 pages that serves as the first couple of chapters in your dissertation research paper/book.  This is my definition.

(6)     My Duncan Phyfe style dining table–that had belonged to my parents–looks very similar to this image found at

(7)     “Carpe Diem” means roughly “seize the day”.  In other words, live life to the fullest.  We all know this definition.

(8)     “World’s Tallest Dwarf” portrait of the exquisitely talented British Actor Richard Crispin Armitage who stars as Thorin Oakenshield in the “The Hobbit” films (“An Unexpected Journey” to be released in December 2012; and “There and Back Again” to be released in December 2013) was from the Project Magazine July 2011 photo shoot and can be found at RANet at

(9)     “The Time of My Life” music video produced by GratianaDS90 (August 25, 2011rev).

About Gratiana Lovelace

Gratiana Lovelace is my nom de plume for my creative writing and blogging. I write romantic stories in different sub genres. The stories just tumble out of me. My resurgence in creative writing occurred when I viewed the BBC miniseries of Elizabeth Gaskell's novel North & South in February 2010. The exquisitely talented British actor portraying the male lead John Thornton in North & South--Richard Crispin Armitage--became my unofficial muse. I have written over 50 script stories about love--some are fan fiction, but most are original stories--that I am just beginning to share with others on private writer sites, and here on my blog. And as you know, my blog here is also relatively new--since August 2011. But, I'm having fun and I hope you enjoy reading my blog essays and my stories. Cheers! Grati ;-> upd 12/18/11
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18 Responses to My Life is at a Crossroads: Choosing a New Path, 11/16/11 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #55)

  1. kathryngaul says:

    Just a quick note for now……funny you should mention intellectual property…….my son, Matthew, works for IPAustralia!

    Bye for now,


    • Gratiana says:

      Good Morning Kathryn,
      That’s neat about your son! Thanks for visiting and commenting. I look forward to hearing more from you later in the day.
      Cheers! Grati ;->


      • Dear Gratiana,

        I found my image “Crossroads” published on your blog.

        Thank you very much for crediting it – most people just don’t care for image authors. You have credited the image to highmoonmedia, but they only had it copied from me. Here’s where my original resides:

        Please credit the image to

        I’m also happy you liked the image – took it in a forest that crosses Bielefeld, the German town I live in.

        Kind regards

        Martin Liebermann


        • Dear Martin,
          Thank you for your nice note about the corrected attribution for your image–of the crossroads in a forest scene. I’ve followed the links and now see that you are the artist for this crossroads image. Your image was really breathtaking. And I’m delighted to meet you!
          I will amend my image reference notes above in the next few minutes to reflect that you are the photographer artist for that image. Thank you so much for sharing with us the background about your lovely photo. It really puts the image in context for us.
          Cheers! Grati ;->


          • Grati, thanks for your kind reply. Some more context? I passed these crossroads many times, when bicycling to my girlfriend Kerstin. It always was a steep climb, crossing (half of) the Teutoburger Wald hills range … One early morning in spring, after a night of rain, the forest was foggy, but the sun already broke through. The light in the fresh green foliage was amazing. That’s how I got my most-copied image – I did not have to travel far. Never got the same soft light again. Also, I don’t see the crossroads that often any more – Kerstin now lives just next to me.


  2. Fabi says:

    Dear Grati,
    You’re very brave when you choose being true to your feelings and dreams instead a more previsible path, in the case an academic carrer, that would be expected, but such perspective wasn’t giving you fulfillment anymore. In my native language we have an expression which means
    “choose the uncertain instead the assured”, it’s what you are doing. Congratulations for following your heart! Life is so short, we must do what makes us feel truly alive. Here from my little corner in South America, I’m wishing you all the best in your life: happiness, success, recognition.


    • Gratiana says:

      Hi Fabi,
      Thanks so much for your kind note. I do feel that have to follow my heart. And I’m blessed to have a choice, when others might not. So, I feel that I have to make the choice that makes sense for me. And creative writing is what makes me happiest right now–next to my wonderful hubby.
      I’m not completely ruling out finishing my doctorate. It just has to be on my terms.
      Thanks for visiting,commenting, and being supportive.
      Cheers! Grati ;->


  3. jazzbaby1 says:

    Hey, David Duchovny is an ABD from Yale, so you’re in luscious company.


  4. judiang says:

    I agree that whatever you do, be careful not to lose yourself, because once you do, it’s very difficult to get back. I speak from experience. Take care.


  5. servetus says:

    Ya gotta do what ya gotta do — but if I were a grad advisor listening to a grad student tell me what you’ve written here, I’d ask one question: do you have a discrete professional goal for which the completed Ph.D. (not just the coursework / exams reflected in ABD) is a requirement?


  6. Gratiana says:

    Hi Serv,
    Well, when I started my doctoral studies, I wanted to “change the world”–or at least my little piece of it–through conducting my equity/diversity research and continuing my educational programming of the same. You have to have a Ph.D for anyone to take you seriously–or to even let you apply for national agency grants, etc.

    In fact, I was the lead PI on a national grant application a few years ago–I wrote everything for it, but I had to find a Ph.D. (which I did) who would agree to be listed as a co-PI–since our other members in the research team were non-Ph.D’s like myself. The idea of letting someone else get a credit line on their resume–and perhaps more salary–for not doing anything kinda stuck in my craw.

    I still do my educational programming in equity/diversity–to expand base of the talented individuals in an underrepresented career field. And, apart from the intrinsic reward my knowing that I’m making a difference gives me, I have also been honored to receive extrinsic recognition and awards for my work as well.

    So, my goal for striving for the Ph.D. is to have a seat at the table to further my educational programming in equity and diversity initiatives in an underrepresented career field. That’s still a lofty goal. I just don’t want to get waylaid by the unhelpful things and people that occur sometimes in academe. Having read your blog about your own experiences, I know you can relate.

    Thanks for visiting and commenting. Cheers! Grati ;->


    • servetus says:

      OK, so you have a specific extrinsic reason to continue, which is great. (Lots of people who get stuck at ABD either don’t, or their plans have changed so much that a PhD is no longer necessary. When I hear stories like that I tell people to bail. No point in hanging around in a degree program that you have no concrete reason to finish, esp if your life is very busy.)

      The next thing I’ll say is going to be unpleasant to hear and / but it is based on my experiences being a grad student, watching grad students, and being a faculty member and watching other faculty members: if you really were dying to finish this project for intrinsic reasons, you’d have finished it already. Stating that is not a criticism of you, it’s just an observation. People who are dying to finish because the topic or the research won’t leave them alone, finish. Your intrinsic creative motivation, as you state in your essay, is all coming from somewhere else and your writing is directed mostly somewhere else because of that. (This is an experience I’m also familiar with, lol. I also had to recover my writing self by starting to write about something different. ) For that reason, although I hope you can find another way to experience this, I suspect that finishing the dissertation is not going to be pleasant, and I don’t know that telling your committee that “the process needs to be less painful” is not going to be all that well received. (Not because they want to haze you or make you suffer for the sake of suffering, but because they haven’t been applying much pressure to you so far, and that’s not working. A lot of grad programs are under pressure right now from administrators to show results or be terminated — this is the case in every grad program I’ve ever worked in.) I don’t know your committee, but what they are likely to tell you is that you need to set up concrete deadlines and milestones for stages of the project. Doing this could actually help you — but only if you’re able to let go of ideas you have about the dissertation as much beyond a writing project that gets you a degree (as opposed to what you might feel it needs to be — something that changes the world or at least makes you feel proud of it. Most people I know with finished dissertations are not very proud of their work). If you need writing to be about your creativity (as you seem to, and I usually do), and an end result that reflects the best job you could possibly have done, then what they are likely to suggest is likely not to be what you need as a writer.

      I’m not trying to talk you out of continuing, just ruminating on some of the frameworks that are in place here: your creativity, what academics typically advise and why they make taht advice, and what you can really get out of it from the long run. I suspect, if what you want is a PhD that gives you clout to apply for grants and such, you’ll be able to finish — but not in a way that’s going to feel pleasant. If you can recover some intrinsic motivation for the project it may be feel better — but then it’s unlikely to be quick.

      Good luck! I know a lot of people are pulling for you.


      • Gratiana says:

        Thanks again Serv,

        Oh, I fully don’t expect completing my Ph.D. will be “pleasant”. Ha! As you no doubt surmised, I was being a tad facetious there. However, “facetious” doesn’t generally come across well when writing–you lose something in translation without the vocal inflection.

        I’ve often heard that a good dissertation is a “done dissertation”. Again, that statement is rather facetious as well. That’s why I’ve tried to narrow down my dissertation topic to make it manageable to complete both timewise and cost wise. I’m a mixed methods research gal–I love statistics (math geek alert!) of quantitative research methods, but I long for the detail and greater understanding that one can elicit from qualitative research methods (interviewing, document analysis, etc.). But traveling to interview participants is costly.

        My research pilot studies have been mixed methods with an emphasis on the qualitative side–I’ve interviewed over 31 male and female students at a large midwestern university in an underrepresented career field for women and persons of color over three different studies. And I’ve interviewed research mentors qualitatively and came up with a schema of professional development student learning outcomes from these discussions that I then took back to the students to see if they “got” what their professors were hoping to teach them. So there is an aspect of assessment in what I have done and plan to do as well. I have a great logic model that I came up with. But it’s really detailed–hence the need to scale down my project.

        Ooh, I just wrote in the future tense about dissertation research project. That’s a positive sign. Because my next step for my dissertation research project is that I want to now survey and interview underrepresented (women and persons of color) in this underrepresented career field to see what professional development student learning outcomes and benchmarking worked or didn’t work for them. The goal is to further develop sensitivities to being better mentors for our diverse students (women and persons of color). I take kind of a ‘life cycle” approach to recruitment, retention, and mentoring in my research pilot studies to date.

        Sorry to be so cryptic about the underrepresented career field that I haven’t mentioned, but I am trying to maintain a bit of anonymity for myself with my blog. I know, good luck with that. Ha!

        Thanks for commenting again. Cheers! Grati ;->


  7. Gratiana says:

    Hey folks,

    Here’s a thought for a new theme song for me for completing my dissertation.
    Cheers! Grati ;->

    “The Beginning of the End – John Porter (Richard Armitage) Strike Back fan vid by delicateblossomvideo


  8. fitzg says:

    Gratiana, I was always conflicted between heart and head. (or imagination head?) Did not progress to M.A. level. Had a super (NOT climbing corporate ladders) career, and in “old” age ‘je’n regrette rien” (need Callie here, my French has faded). I do not regret teachers’ college after uni, nor hitch-hiking and working across Europe. Nor always returning to university for art history courses, but never committing to another degree. Because I am not very intellectually disciplined, and often supremely uninterested in “required” courses. But no education is ever wasted whatever the motivation be. Everything you are doing now, with such superb support, will always be the elements of you, and the curiosity and the pure stick-to-itness, and integrity.


    • Gratiana says:

      Hi Fitzg,
      Thanks for your note about your story. I must admit that when I was taking classes–and amongst the milieu of my other doctoral student friends–I felt a synergy about my doctoral studies.

      Though I have attended later “jumpstart your dissertation writing” courses, they have mostly included newbys who haven’t conducted any research. So the teacher focused on them, rather than those of us who were further along. It was frustrating and didn’t move me forward much in my dissertation proposal writing, despite my attempts to get the teacher to focus on those of us who were at the dissertation proposal and writing stages. A one room school house approach does not work at the doctoral level. Ha!

      I appreciate you and others giving me your thoughts about the choice before me. And I am grateful to have that choice. We’ll see what happens after my Dec. 5th meeting with my doctoral advisors.

      Thanks for visiting and commenting. Cheers! Grati


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