For the past two weeks, I’ve been seriously considering pulling out of graduate school. Something happened with the ravenous lion, and it was the last straw. I called my old boss and told him that I couldn’t do it any more. I was fighting just to exist as a student in the program. Graduate school is a lot of work and adding all the bureaucracy and politics, it was just too much.
I’ve spent the last two weeks on the phone and in the offices of friends, mentors, and school folks. I’ve never cried in front of so many people in such a short period of time. Things have been hard, folks. There’s no way around that.
So as I planned my exit strategy and started telling colleagues that I was leaving within six weeks, it hit home why I’m in graduate school in the first place. Of course, it’s nice to be paid to think and to study. Having health insurance isn’t half bad either. But the fact of the matter is that I love studying and teaching. Sitting in classes, I realized that I stick out like a sore thumb in the program. But also the work is unbelievably fulfilling. Teaching a lecture to 250 students on the physics of flight, participating in class discussions outside my field of expertise, and discussing my dissertation topic with various professors: it’s been a long time since an activity made me smile so much.
The conclusion? I’m staying, folks. It will be a difficult journey. It will involve a lot of fighting. There will be plenty of naysayers. But this is what I want, for me.
I got all the way up to 95% sure that I couldn’t do this any more. But at the beginning of this two week process, I told myself that I could stay if (1) I had someone to guide me through the milestones leading me toward my Ph.D. and (2) someone would fight alongside me. The ravenous lion has been refusing to allow me to move forward, arguing that I might not be physically capable of all the work. Now I have an undercover adviser who’s helping me think through classes, exams, and all those other milestones that make up this Ph.D. program. And Dr. Leo made some critical phone calls on my behalf. He called my official adviser and talked to him about each of their concerns, helping me gain some perspective and also informing the world that their actions are not unsupervised!! He called colleagues and made referrals so that I could take advantage of all the medical resources that are available in a timely manner.
My official adviser, Dr. Leo, and I all realize that if my medical condition takes a turn for the worse, it may no longer be feasible to be in the Ph.D. program. Dr. Leo and I are keeping an eye on that, and I will consider dropping out of the program or taking a leave of absence should it come to that. However, for now, it makes sense to stay, and more importantly, it makes me happy!
The next sixteen months are going to be hard. The workload is hard, and, to be honest, my health is not that good. But I have some pretty awesome mentors who are willing to have hour long phone calls with me and walk beside me through the journey. I have Dr. Leo who’s committed to helping me in a holistic sense, including helping me prioritize things in life to make the most of the gifts and resources that I have. I’m blessed with the opportunity to work at something that I love doing. I have friends who pray for me, even when I don’t know how to ask them to pray. And, I have a God who is caring for me in ways that are beyond comprehension.
Humbled, a little nervous, but mostly at peace,