A year ago today, my Ph.D in General Psychology was conferred by Capella University. I am celebrating with a little fun.
After years of struggle, I finally finished my doctorate degree. In the photo, I am standing in front of tiny pieces of paper that represent huge chunks of my life. I am standing in front of teaching certificates, state licenses and four degrees that I have willingly sacrificed my love life, happy hours with the girls, and family time with my children. I do not regret one missed event. I have become a Capella PhDiva! I rock that shirt and all that it implies.
However, I find myself in a new tricky spot. I am at peace with my journey to become Dr. Pope, but I am not sure what to do next. You see, I set goals constantly and I never have too much free time. I have tons of things that I want to do, but I question the timing of each goal. I do not have a clear direction and that is scary for me. It is easier to stay in my bubble of education. I control the outcome in education. I going to disclose a secret: I have five degrees and multiple certificates. I excel in academics! Real life cannot be controlled by me. I do not control the outcomes of relationships.
I purchased Shonda Rhimes’ audio book, Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person. I have been too tired to read anything and my eyes are always jumping which is my signal to let me know my eyes are strained. I loved listening to her book; it made me think about writing, being a single mom and my self imposed limits. It motivated me to say yes to my next challenge.
As I enter 2016, I am thinking about what I want to accomplish personally and professionally. I have things that I talk about with friends and I have dreams that I do not share with anyone. My next challenge will not include school. I am clear that I want to take a break from “going to school”.
Capella’s PhD program was an online program, but I spent hours every day for three months with tunnel vision focused on completing my dissertation. From July to September 2015, I breathed and ate my dissertation. I worked with my mentor from Capella consistently. I never saw his face, but I looked at his words daily. I feared his editorial comments. It is amazing how energy I put into becoming Dr. Pope. I was left depleted after I submitted my last edits. I am still unsure, if there were errors that I missed. I was left with one clear thought: There is no desire burning within me to complete another degree!
My career and personal life are my next challenges. My family life needs a fresh perspective. My body need to be cared for in many ways. My business needed a new direction and my mind needs rest. My desire to write for fun has been tugging at my heart. Shonda Rhimes says, “If you are a writer, you should write.” I am going to write more and share more while not sharing too much. I am getting ready for my next challenge. I am ready to leave my comfort zone and stretch myself more.
I have been quiet for a couple of months. I finished my draft of chapters 3-5 of my dissertation. They almost finished me too! I started July with tons of energy and hope. I stopped any activities that would distract me from completing my goal of submitting my chapters by August 15, 2014. I stopped posting on my blog too!
I planned to submit my first draft on August 15. Well, I had to quickly adjust that date. I started typing chapter 4 and began to question everything I thought I wanted to write. Then, I committed to finishing by August 18. I went to my office at my job and worked until 11:00pm week nights; I worked all day on Saturday and Sundays. My oldest son held down the fort at home. I went without fun and money. More important, I went without support. I met with my academic advisor from Capella on August 18. After our meeting, I knew I had to finish on time. He motivated me to keep my eyes on the prize. I was exhausted and frightened. I did not know if I had organized the information correctly. I questioned if I wrote too much. I questioned how to end chapter 5 with a bang. More important, I feared I would not honor my participants’ experiences.
Ending a Relationship
I submitted my chapters on August 19. I knew my mentor was going out-of-town. We communicated via the phone and some in the courseroom. I knew I needed to make major adjustments to the Chapters 4 & 5, but I need his feedback. I was lost; I needed his guidance. I did not receive what I needed in a timely manner. In the end, there was a break in our communication. I felt devastated because I knew ending my relationship with my mentor was necessary to move ahead. I realized something as a professor from a student’s perspective. Online education requires feedback from all parties. Online education cost too much to flounder in the dark. Students have to ask for help and professors have to provide quality feedback in a timely manner. I waited until the end of the quarter before I made my final decision. Changing a mentor is a serious and scary task. I waited until I was thinking clearly before I made my request. I feel changing a mentor should be the last resort, but I believe sometimes it is necessary for survival. My dissertation advisor quickly responded to my request for a new mentor. I still like and respect my former mentor; however, I need someone who sees the finish line and can help get me there.
I did not expect to feel so mentally exhausted after submitting my chapters. I literally needed two weeks to get my energy level back. I taught five classes in person, and I coached two online. I am guilty of teaching with too much passion. Often, I do not realize how busy I really am until my body stops. I took on too much. I was in the middle of designing an online education course. I stopped when I tackled chapters 4 & 5. I have four children and a dog. Everyone ate hot dogs and cheap fast food during July and August. I had the nerve to enroll in the Adobe Train the Trainer (8 weeks) program. I finished the chapters, completed my Adobe Training, and I taught my classes.
I fought with two of my employers this summer over money. There was a change in the way I expected to be paid this summer. No one bothered to tell the employees that they would be paid in three payments for summer. I paid my tuition and got a new car based on money that did not come when I expected it. Child support was MIA too. I spent most of my time praying to have ENOUGH to pay my bills and feed my children. I was mentally tired from trying to collect a check from my consulting work and my other employer. There is nothing worse than dealing with financial issues and writing your dissertation. By August 1st, I was so drained from begging people to cut a check that I wanted to give up. Luckily, I have good friends that prayed and encouraged me. God stretched my faith this summer.
By the end of September, I had enough. I quite trying to get feedback from my mentor. I accepted my employer did not see the value of communicating with their employees when a major change was going to occur with their pay. I knew I could not continue to work as a consultant for that company that never sent my check until two faxes and multiple phone calls. I do not beg for money. That defeats the purpose of working. I realized I would not finish my PhD before December 2014. I also realized that I hated hot dogs! I am still digging myself out of the financial destruction caused by the miscommunication with my employer.
The Turn Around
I realized I was blessed during all of the craziness. I submitted my chapters as a draft. I became an Adobe Education Trainer. I have a safe vehicle that works for a mom that drops off and picks up her children. My wonderful boss did not give me a raise, but she gave me a great schedule that allowed me to pick-up my children everyday and cut down my daycare by $1000.00 a month. She provided an office with a window. I love it. She gave me a promotion and a wonderful TA to assist with the eight classes this fall. It is an honor to help him grow as a professional. Yes, I am still hurt over the way we were paid this summer, but I love my boss and the team I work with. My students are so supportive; therefore, I will continue to teach with passion. Teaching is my lifeline! After this summer, I have more stories to share with my students. I have new reasons to empathize with them.
I met Deirdre through Capella University. We met in Dallas, Tx during a colloquia. We bonded instantly. Dee is attractive, ambitious, a leader, smart, funny, and determined to obtain her PhD. We share the same characteristics and determination. We met almost six years ago.
Along the way, I became seriously ill, divorced, and ran out of student loan money. Dee was promoted on two jobs, dated, and traveled around the US. However, we managed to speak to each other regularly. Our friendship grew because we needed each other.
We found the journey to complete our doctorates from Capella University required support and understanding from true friends/supporters. We learned we needed to surround ourselves with people who understood our plight. We have heard horror stories along the way. Some of our Capella Sisters graduated and some quit their programs to complete other goals. As a matter of fact, Dee quit for one year. I had to stop for a year due to health issues and financial setbacks. Yet we came back to Capella and decided we would complete what we started.
I went to Dallas as a delegate for the Democratic State Convention. However, I wanted to see my family and my Capella Sisters. I met with Deborah W., Wanda M., and Deirdre Hill. The four of us share a special bond: we are single African-American females completing a PhD online. All of us enrolled in Capella University with the goal of earning a PhD in psychology.
Deirdre was about to complete her dissertation before me this summer. However, she realized she needed to make some serious changes before she submitted her dissertation to her committee. So, we met on a Sunday morning on June 29, 2014 to edit her draft.
Luckily, I was able to obtain some participants for my study. Therefore, I could write-up my cases and finish this summer too. I knew how I wanted the format of my dissertation to look. Dee gave me vital information to help me write my dissertation. I gave her my two cents on edits. I had not planned to stay another day in Fort Worth, but my friendship with Dee is a true sisterhood. I knew we could help each other finish what we started six years ago.
Looking at our photo tells the story. I did not comb my hair; Deirdre was doing the natural look. We were a hot mess! We were in Starbucks inside of Tom Thumb Grocery completing the journey. It has taken me almost 10 years to complete my doctorate. Dee has been my friend for six of those years. We have searched the literature, shared our frustrations about collecting data. We have shared our ah moments. We see ourselves in the literature. We call each other Dr. Hill and Dr. Pope.
We are currently writing chapter four and five of our dissertations. We will complete our journey by the end of this quarter. We are both single, determined and grateful for our journey through Capella University. She will walk across the stage ahead of me at our graduation (Hill before Pope). Yet we will both stand by each other after graduation and throughout our lives. #Capellaproud