“I can’t believe I’m in, I got accepted and now I’m here. I’m so excited but definitely nervous. The hard part was getting in, right?!”
I was wrong … so wrong. The excitement diminished and I was left with a bunch of nervousness to figure out. The transition into my PhD program was rough, to say the least. It wasn’t what I thought and I quickly reevaluated if this is what I still wanted.
In high school I was homeless and living in the streets. The hood was my home. I was the first in my family to pursue higher education. It felt more like a burden than a blessing. My family and friends didn’t understand anything (and still don’t) about the process or demands of the program. I felt a blanket of isolation and doubt wrapped around me every day.
My department hosted discussion circles to connect with colleagues that are further along in the program. These sessions were helpful but not as candid as they should have been. I wanted to hear that everything wasn’t going to be ok because for me it wasn’t. I always struggled and nothing turned out the way I envisioned it. As PhD students, we don’t always figure it out and we especially don’t figure it out the way others do. Imposter syndrome is talked about but I know imposters exist. Am I one of them?
This is my sixth and final year in my PhD program and all of these feelings are still with me. What has changed is the way I allow them to affect me. I wish I was comfortable and thriving, however, that’s not my story. I’m fine with that. Although being here has broken me down, I was given a chance to build myself up again and get to know who I am through a different set of challenges. I’ve never felt so vulnerable in an educational setting but it has taught me I can survive this too.
We will enter this abyss and it is not guaranteed we will make it out seeing the light. That’s ok… The aim is to learn how to navigate the depth and darkness of it all to create our own light.
- Be true to yourself, no matter what that looks like
- Don’t hesitate to take a non-traditional route. You don’t have to follow what’s being told to you just because they are more experienced and further in their career
- Constantly evaluate how important publication and status is to you. What are you willing to endure/sacrifice to get it?
- If you knew everything already, you wouldn’t be here
- The most successful students in the PhD program are not the most intelligent but yet the most dedicated
- Everything takes 3x longer than you think (readings, assignments, writing papers)
- Be willing to let go of what you’ve written; adapting and evolving is critical
- Appreciate feedback but don’t be afraid to question and reject it
- Check in with yourself constantly to make sure every move is one you want to make, not forced to make. Why did you decide to do this in the first place?