I've been stalling in writing this blog. I'm sure you all noticed that after the spring semester I took a break from blogging regularly. Spring 2011, was officially the worst semester in all of my academic life. I needed some time to gather myself. I guess you could say this blog is an explanation of sorts. You probably won't find any words of encouragement of motivation. These are just my thoughts and reactions to a pretty difficult time. I tend to get a little dramatic and maybe a little far fetched but sometimes that just how I see things. Don't judge me, Pray for me. :-) I'm sharing in hopes that some other students out there can relate. Your comments are welcome.
Not quite sure what I’m feeling today. I often joke around that graduate school is a hazing process. Now I’m seeing that it’s not really a joke. I’m pledging, but not for the customary temporary period. No, this is terminal hazing. It is relentless, it is merciless, it is unforgiving. I feel cheated. Until the start of this year I felt like I was on track. On some sort of course that was going to groom me. Prepare me for the next steps. This was supposed to prepare me for my dreams. After the spring 2011 semester I feel like somebody snatched my wig, exposed all my insecurities and left me to question my place in the circle of life that moves us all. God, that was super dramatic. Somebody come and get Sade out my head... Ya'll know I don't do her.
Am I losing my natural black mind? I'm not one to play the race card but I feel like sometimes it's the only one in my hand. It's just how I feel. I’m reading Claude Steele’s Whistling Vivaldi. I’m about halfway through. It’s all about social identity contingencies. The thoughts, feelings, beliefs, etc. that one experiences at the hands of his/her social identity. These things can come as a result to various social conditions, norms, etc. and tangibly impact our lives. Or they can effect us on abstract subconscious levels. For example, in the 50’s and 60’s Steele was prohibited from swimming at the public pool in his community on all days but Wednesday. Wednesday was the day the pool was open for Black patronage. That’s an example of tangible social contingencies. A stereotype threat is an example of an abstract social contingency. For example, if I grow up in a society/environment that says that most black women struggle in math or science, when I take a math test, the pressure of the possibility of me fulfilling that stereotype will likely impact my performance on the test.
According to Steele, I've not gone crazy. EUREKA! My ethnicity can sometimes lead me to believe that in all my life, my work, my personality, my productivity are all viewed through the lens of my identity as a minority woman. When it comes to how people treat me or how they interact with me, I could possibly question, almost instinctively, whether their behavior/our relationship are such, because of who I am as a person or a result of my identity as a Black woman.
My advisor is a real giant in the field. She’s known across the world for her work and for her research. Her contributions are significant and I've learned so much from her. I was honored that she took a liking to me and selected to serve as my advisor back in 2008. She challenged me. She wanted me to grow. At least that’s what I thought. Initially, her criticisms were given with a vote of confidence. I felt like she felt like I could do it. Or maybe that’s what I wanted to believe. This semester however, things changed. I could be taking her behavior completely out of context, so I don’t mean this in a judgmental or accusatory sense, I just felt like I was busting my hump, tap dancing for this lady every week and it was never enough. The connection that we once had, seemed to have fizzled to almost a level of obligation. She was always busy. The time she once took , the concern and interest that was once shown were no longer. I mean I get that she was busy and overwhelmed. I just didn't feel like I could talk to her like I wanted to.
And let’s not even deal with the papers. I worked so hard and got the worst grades I have ever gotten. The worst!! But what stung even more than the grades themselves, were the comments. She ripped me to pieces. Reduced my hours and hours of work to words/phrases like “weak” “poor writing” “this needs a lot of work” “unorganized” “needs further explanation, “etc. And out of nowhere. I’ve been writing papers this way for the last 10 years, now all of a sudden I’m the worst writer in classroom. How could this be? I felt like I’d been blind sided by a new system. I was being held to standards that I wasn’t informed of. To make matters worst, I couldn’t tell whether or not I was alone is this academic flogging. Were my classmates being held to these same standards? Where they meeting them, while I was struggling? Was my professor trying to show me that perhaps I wasn’t cut out for this?
It sucked all of the joy out of learning for me. The content of the course inspired me and showed me a place for the work I wanted to do in the field. But the feedback I received made me feel inadequate, impotent, paranoid and like I should just cut my losses and go beat face for a living at the Mac counter. (It really seems like such a glamorous life.) And on the heels of this stress riddled, super trying, overwhelming semester of defeat I found out that I essentially have to find a new school/ new program and start all over again.
I’m worn and I dire need of a break. I need to get my head together, dust myself off and try again. So this summer I’m starting anew. I’ve got a new apartment, a new attitude and some time to get my head around my goals. I’m prayed up. I’m believing that the best is yet to come. Things at work are great and there are a few other great opportunities afoot. So I'm sure that somehow things are working together for the good. I just need a minute to come to grips with all the changes taking place around me. I'll keep you posted of my progress.