In my last post, I wrote about my frustrations with “aging” and not accomplishing things as planned, and ultimately not making the most of the time I do have….as I perceive it….
In this post, I will refer to a sentiment that conflicts with that, and that I favor to a greater degree. Something I have had to remind myself repeatedly in the past year.
For some of us, we are not concerned about the end, but the means to the end. We are in it for “the journey.”
And we each have a special journey. No one journey is better or greater than the other.
The doctorate has been my long journey for the past 7-8 years. A huge roller-coaster ride with a lot of screaming and yelling, indeed. And higher education has meant more than that for me. I have alluded in previous posts how the doctorate has been both a professional and a personal journey to say the least.
So I will briefly make the case here, why to me the journey is so much more important than the result.
With a monstrous task like the doctorate, there is a common saying, that a “good dissertation is a done dissertation.” No matter how much I have heard this statement, I have never looked at it this way.
The most critical reason why the journey is much more important than the result, is embedded within the process of getting there and how you make the most of it.
I do sometimes tell people that you gotta love the “nuts and bolts” of the process to fully take advantage of the wisdom that comes from this unique journey.
It is partly why I have upheld the wisdom of the Mahatma since my college years, and have even posted Gandhi’s quote on my bedroom and office wall, which reads:
“All your scholarship will be in vain if at the same time you do not build your character and attain mastery over your thoughts and your actions.”
There is great wisdom to these words and the quote is relevant to the importance of the “journey.” I see the conscious activity of building our character fundamental to any pursuit, but especially in the field of public policy and public service. I continue to have many flaws that the perfectionist in me will never fail to point out, but I have always focused on trying to improve myself from that self-critical feedback and from the feedback of others, even if I don’t take it well immediately the moment I receive it. Building our character is important for all of us to be conscious of in every stage, no matter our life’s pursuits.
Additionally, Gandhi’s words imply the significance of a sense of humility in our work (which only comes with time and experience and an open mind), and keeping that ego in check. I tell myself sometimes, I really don’t want to add any more ego that is already existing in academia, ;), but it will be a conscious task to keep it in check. And I am starting to battle with that even now on my final stages of my doctorate. Understandably, there is a reason why this ego is present, and I understand it more now. So perhaps some of it is warranted and okay. The PhD is a very difficult task, not everyone can do it, and you don’t realize what a doctorate student is going through unless you are immersed in it yourself. Each research project is different with a different set of challenges and some have more challenges than others . But regardless, the completion of a PhD is certainly something to be proud of. And I have greater respect for those who have done it. Further, I believe a doctoral research project that involves fieldwork in a developing country, and involves interaction with those in very difficult situations, can help with the difficult task of ensuring humility will always be present in our work.
Our pursuits will have no weight or value if we don’t remain steadfast on building and enhancing our character.
With respect to my journey, the achievement of the degree, those three letters beside my name, and that diploma in my hand, will not only be a “political document” of some sort. But rather a symbol of my struggle to achieve it, my personal story of going against all odds. So many people along my journey in higher education told me I couldn’t do it, I didn’t have the temperament, I didn’t have “it” in me, that I will never be able to achieve it. So much discouragement. So much obvious jealousy. So much “evil eye.” There are many who say that these degrees don’t matter, that it is simply just a document.
But these individuals must be reminded that they symbolize much more than that for a lot of people. For me, it is so much more than the development of my scholarly voice. It is about developing my capacity to see my own worth… about my fight against my illness, and my proof to humanity, and most importantly to myself that I can/could do it…..that I accomplished a very difficult task, despite my debilitating illness, despite all the different odds against me and the barriers evident due to the many intersections of my identity. It is more than a degree to me. It will be, Godwilling, a doctrine of my struggle and my story of survival, hope and resilience.
I know that if I achieve this particular doctorate, than I can do anything.
But whatever time I have left on this “journey,” I am going to enjoy the hell out of it. 🙂
Because even though a “finish-line” may be somewhat closer, a feasible timeline must be honored, and I may be seeing some light in the distance, especially when I complete my fieldwork in January, ….. it will still be, ONLY the beginning. 🙂
“The true value of any pursuit lies in the process of reaching for something great – not necessarily the moment of grasping it.” – Authorprenuer, Jesse Tevelow
Peace, Warmth, and Blessings,