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 http://www.martin-liebermann.de. 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 http://shop.ifitsspecial.com/images/1276714799511158872149.jpeg
(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 http://www.instappraisal.com/files/appraisal_images/102_3320.JPG
(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 http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/Richard/Promos/ProjectMagJuly2011/album/slides/ProjectMag-02.html
(9) “The Time of My Life” music video produced by GratianaDS90 (August 25, 2011rev). http://vimeo.com/28183767