Friday, July 31, 2015

PhDs and Perfectionism

Encouragement from Dr. Brown is gonna get me through this!
Something big happened this past semester. I made a commitment to taking the next step with my degree, and completed my oral exams. I am officially a PhD candidate and have been approved to move forward with my research. If you know me, this is pretty momentous.

I've been sitting on this egg for awhile. So long, in fact, that I learned through the process of setting up my exams that I actually ran out of time to work on my degree two summers ago. I am currently waiting to hear back on my appeal for an extension. As I wrote the letter explaining my need for more time and outlining my steps to complete my degree in a timely fashion from here, it was an opportunity to reflect on this journey to PhD. Where I have been. Where I am at. Where I need to go.

I feel like a totally different person now than the person I was when I started back in January 2008. That woman was a brand new student affairs professional who somewhat reluctantly agreed to take a class with some colleagues who just wanted to "try it out." All three of us then found ourselves enrolling in a program. I didn't know what it felt like to not be in the classroom. My entire identity had revolved around being a student for 24 years.

When I look at who I am now, it is just so different. Since starting PhD program, I have moved back to my hometown, changed jobs, changed my research topic, changed my advisor, got married, and am now looking to what is ahead for me and my newly-formed family. As I wrote about life changes in my appeal letter, part of me really wanted to write: "What I most look forward to is being done and not being a student any more. That's my assurance to you that I will work to achieve my new deadline. I've got other sh*t to do and dreams to achieve. I am finally ready to check this one off the list. P.S. No one is more annoyed than me that I've taken so long."

I also couldn't bring myself to write that one of my delays is because I have had more than one moment of feeling like "who the heck am I to be doing this?" I have written about that before. It took me two years to get to a place of confidence to have someone else look at the proposal I had written and give feedback, and another 9 months before I was ready to send it to my advisor for the first time. I was so nervous about her feedback, that I wouldn't open her e-mail and notes for months after that. I was afraid her edits would question the worthiness of my proposed study,

It's not that I've ever forgotten that I'm a student. It is that it is easier to push that identity aside rather than spend time dealing with why this has been so hard. To fill my life with other distractions like reading books for fun and kitty snuggles. I am not lazy - in many of those moments of kitten snuggles, I was up in my own head, thinking about my work. I was not procrastinating for the heck of it. It is the perfectionist in me that pushed aside my work and thought that it wasn't good enough to share. That if I passed it on to my advisor, she would tear it apart or deem that the topic for which I am incredibly passionate and that I was ready to invest my time into researching further wasn't a worthwhile study. After I finally opened them, I kicked myself because there wasn't even that much I needed to change. I could have completed my oral exams months earlier and already have been well into my research.

This is my constant struggle. I wish that I could guarantee that the self doubt is gone. I am sure it isn't. But I just have to push past it and chug along. Passing my exams gave me that first big push. And now IRB has given me approval to proceed, participant recruitment is underway, and I've set my finish date as May 2016. I couldn't be more excited to actually be able to start collecting data and learning from the participants' experiences.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...