A Day in the Life, or This Diss Ain’t Gonna Write Itself

Today has been a whirlwind of dissertation writing, online course setups, and grad student housekeeping. This morning, I  added two pages to the diss. I know that doesn’t seem like much, and it isn’t, but they are two GOOD pages. After being unable to produce anything substantial for the past few weeks, I feel good about this progress, and I’m starting to think that my mojo is coming back. I’m actually excited about the section I’m working on, and I can’t wait to pick up the books I ordered to see where they might fit in this part of my research. Those of you who are academics know that scholarly writing is HARD, and I won’t rehash the myriad of reasons why, or the fact that there are days when I can barely pick up a book to skim, or look at a draft of the chapter I’m working on. All of this is par for the course for most academics, and I’m no exception.

Still, this last writing desert felt different; I was seriously beginning to question whether or not I really wanted a spot in the Ivory Tower, or if the Ph.D. is truly a means to any end other than itself.  I’m not frantic or overly paranoid about job market melodrama or the “crisis in the humanities;” I came into this program at 40 years old knowing full well the risks involved. I’ve always had a back-up plan or two or three, so that’s not my issue. I won’t feel like a supreme failure if an academic job doesn’t pan out; I’ll take my Ph.D. and move on with my life. However, there are aspects of academia that I find rather distasteful, and I’m kind of “over” being underpaid, over-worked, and under-appreciated. Don’t get me wrong, I recognize the extreme privilege of my status as a highly educated Black woman, but I’m also keenly aware of the fact that these days, that might not count for much.

To counter a bit of the negativity that is threatening to take root in this blog entry, I want to share that I absolutely love teaching. Every semester I’ve had students come up to me and give me hugs, telling me how much they miss my class. I’m also one of only three people on my campus that can teach the new Intro to LGBT Studies course that we are offering, and how cool is that? I’m on track to finish the Ph.D. in five years, which is well above the national average of nine or ten for folks in certain humanities fields.  I love my project, and I have an extremely supportive and generous dissertation committee. I also have a really smart and dedicated group of friends who keep me grounded and expect me to get the thing done.

To be perfectly honest with you, my life is pretty golden right now, and I guess writing a little of this down has helped me to get off my pity pot.  I think that pity pots are ok for a few minutes of self-reflection and general gnashing of the teeth and ripping of the garments. However, to languish on the pot too long is certain death, figurative, if not literal. I’ve seen what death in a graduate program looks like: it looks like the folks who are still thinking about going on the  job market “next year” after ten years in a Ph.D. program. Or the folks who can regurgitate Lacan or Butler or Kant at the drop of a dime, but who have no original ideas. If this is the life they’ve chosen for themselves, so be it, but I promised myself when I came into this program that I would not become one of those people. As a 44 year-old Black woman, I can’t afford to be. I’ve also decided that when I’m dean (don’t you like how I’ve gone from cranky Ph.D. student to dean in a few sentences?), that I won’t allow this kind of tom-foolery in any of the programs that I’m responsible for.

So, enough with the pontificating, let’s get this party started. This diss ain’t gonna write itself.

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4 thoughts on “A Day in the Life, or This Diss Ain’t Gonna Write Itself

  1. Dean “To Be”

    I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this write-up. What I enjoyed and was inspired by the most is your honesty in who you are, where you are going, and what your intentions are in getting there. I can appreciate you acknowledging you are at the age where you can not and will not afford yourself the leisure to accomplish this task in the traditionally allotted 10 year span. I appreciate your driven attitude to complete “This Diss” in the non-traditional time frame of 5 yrs. This task in itself is insurmountable to imagine for many. I am sure you are aware such an accomplishment is often not heard of . To know not only have you set this goal but you are tracking to it, it an awesome feat. I do hope you understand the gravity of your upcoming accomplishment. Whether done consciously or not you have set the bar high for those pursuing their own PhD in any program. So for those who follow your blog may they too be inspired to set goals and know they are achievable with discipline, determination, and dedication even when the path they are traveling are not always clear. So I applaud you in your continued and constant effort to reach completion of your intended goal. As I was reading your write-up I understood there will be no encountered obstacles to prevent you from leaving the mental state you identify now as Dean “To Be” and triumphing the mental reality of being “The Dean”… You inspire me to not just be believe but know all things can be accomplished with hard work and believing in ”self’….

  2. Just found your blog by searching “lesbian” on BlogLovin and I’m so glad I did! I’ve only read this one post so far, but as a recently doctor’d black Lesbian myself, it is amazing and wonderful to have found you here. I look forward to reading your words, and keep going on that diss! Life will be so glorious when it’s done! xo

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