Before you begin the applause, let me finish.
I have slaved over countless papers, submitted an ungodly amount of rewrites, and have thought until I could literally feel the folds in my brain do whatever they do when you take in too much information. I have put my feelings, financial stability, and general everyday tasks on the back burner for the sake of deadlines and letters. Life has happened. Seasons have changed. And summer is coming.
This summer my family and friends will praise me for completing my first year. I’ll hear variations of “I’m so proud of you” “Keep grindin’,” and “You better get that degree,” to which I will humbly bow my head and shyly reply “thank you.” However, the applause, the accolades, and the eventual degree don’t change the fact that I. Am. Tired.
Emotionally. Mentally. Spiritually. Physically. I am exhausted.
And the cherry on top is that it is the most odd form of exhaustion I have ever experienced. My work has not broken any ground; no lives have been changed; no policies have been altered. But somehow, I feel like I have done two centuries worth of work in 9 months while running on a hamster wheel.
What I knew coming into my program was that it would be a long, grueling process. What I was not aware of was that the work would feel so useless. I did not know that I would write countless papers that only my professor would ever read. I hadn’t considered that I would be putting my financial freedom and social butterfly tendencies on hold. No one had told me that this would suck so much life out of me that a friend’s first comment to me on the phone would be, “you sound stressed.”
Folks, this is not life.
This is not life the way God intended us to live it with freedom and love and joy. It’s just not. And what I have learned in this first year is that these people will kill you if you let them. Administrators will create unrealistic lists of things you can and cannot do within your program and expect you to flourish. Professors will give strict deadlines for pointless assignments and then give you feedback that does not matter in the grand scheme of things. And if you allow all of this negative energy too much space in and control over your life you will be absolutely miserable.
About a week ago I read an article about how the notion of productivity is often used as a mask for capitalistic means. Then, in my small group the other day, one of my girlfriends said the following:
I say all of this not to say that PhD programs are awful or to discourage anyone from applying to or completing one - we desperately need more Blackademics. Rather, my point is this: if we are going to make it to the other side of these programs we’ve got to set up some hard and fast boundaries. We can’t let these folks kill us. I’ve personally decided that I’m taking the summer to rethink my priorities and set some serious boundaries for the fall; some non-negotiables. I’ve got to decide what’s important to me - what matters, who fulfills me - and I have to be strategic about making time for those things consistently. I'll be learning to make time to read and write for pleasure, to FaceTime my godson, and practice yoga. I plan to pray more and worry less. And most importantly, I plan to say "no" a whole lot more.
Because at the end of the day, I’m no use to anyone when my cup runneth dry.