Confessions of a Doctoral Student: Sacrifice, Gratitude and Responsibility

As you can see from the lapse between posts, it’s been an active couple of months and now I find myself in the home stretch of my doctoral coursework with 3 weeks to go.  The past two years have been nothing short of a rollercoaster.  Sometimes I don’t know how I have gotten things accomplished, it’s as if work, school, and life are all on a sort of cruise control.  

With that said, work and school have taken the front seat while my personal life has been limited to moments with my family, my partner, and local activities with my best girlfriends.  There have been plenty of distractions that have reminded me of what I have sacrificed these past two years as I prioritized my doctoral work.  Life happens all around you and your mind goes into overdrive trying to make sense of your life, the lives of others, and the world in general. So, the past two months I have been very reflective – and these are the three things I have thought about the most:

Sacrifice.

If you’re beginning this journey or contemplating it, be forewarned! You’ll find yourself turning down loads of invites, from birthday dinners to dinner parties to neighborhood festivals to trips.  On other occasions you might be out of town and find yourself confined to the hotel room desk where you have to plug in and meet a deadline.  In short, a doctorate is sacrifice, a sacrifice of your time, energy, and mental strength.  It does not mean that you will have zero life, but you will have to choose your battles and accept that your interaction with family and friends will take a different shape for some time.  However, it’s not all bad. With your stricter time constraints, you might find yourself more invested in your friends and family; and you will also find that they will likely be your strongest supporters.  

Gratitude.

Sacrifice is inevitable and as much as you may be compelled to complain or gripe about how tired you are or how much you want your social life back, remind yourself how incredibly fortunate you are to even have the opportunity to pursue this degree.  All it takes is turning on the news to understand why.  We are flooded with the harsh realities going on in the world and in our own communities.  So, be grateful, and allow that gratitude to find its way into your work and allow it to be a consistent reminder of why you are doing what you are doing.   

Responsibility.

Social justice is heavily embedded in what we explore as Doctors of Education. We have a responsibility to pay attention to events happening in our communities and in the world. It is imperative that we keep our perspective in tact and look at the world through a clear lens.  We have a responsibility to utilize our deep understanding of the types of institutionalized oppression that perpetuate inequality.  As I said before, your vision of the world will change. You will never read the news the same way again. Sometimes you will speak up, sometimes you will remain silent. It is precisely in those moments that you will become aware of the newfound responsibility you have inherited.   

Most of all, many of us in education are on this journey because we are compelled to do something, build something, and make an impact where it can be felt.   I cannot speak for all Ph.D. journeys, but I can say that not a day goes by that I do not forget that my Ed.D. is a gift, a powerful gift, a gift that empowers me to be the change.  So, if you’re on the same journey or thinking about it, be grateful for the opportunity, pay attention to what it means, and know that the sacrifice is worth it.    

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