2016: Preparation

In the past I’ve done the “one word challenge”.  The idea is that you pick a word or phrase that serves as your guiding motivation or reminder for the entire year.  For 2016, my word is Preparation.

I truly believe that I’m actively working toward new beginnings, new journeys, and new blessings in 2017.  But before I can get there, I have to take care of some things this year.

First and foremost, I will be checking off some important milestones in my PhD journey.  Next Friday I’ll complete my comprehensive exam, a four-hour written test of my competency in key areas distinctly related to my dissertation and career plans.  I’m excited for the opportunity to think about things critically and demonstrate all that I do know about my topic and the varying factors at play.  It’s a little daunting, but I know I’ll be ready.

The next big hurdle is my dissertation proposal.  I’ll be defending my proposal and comprehensive exam at the same time, God willing.  It’s going to be an intense day, but it’ll be key in managing my timeline and the next steps of my research.  That will be in February and a really big sigh of relief when done.  Hopefully that will also be a green light moment to begin the pilot study of my dissertation.  This is when the fun begins. When I can actually start interviewing people and hearing their stories and learning about their experiences, I know the time will start to fly.  Once I begin my dissertation research, I’ll be faced with hours of data collection, analysis, and synthesis.  It won’t be easy, but I like to believe it’ll be fun!

March and April bring about new opportunities for travel, networking, and presenting my work.  I’m very excited to attend 3 different national conferences and present at all of them.  I hope to make connections that will support my research and potentially future employment opportunities.

May will be a lovely break and hopefully a time to celebrate a successful spring semester. I’ll be officially done with class at that point, unless I decide to pick up a course for “fun” like I did this semester.

June will end my travel season with 2 conferences in new and fun places. Through a variety of travel grants and grant-funded research, I’ll be able to have my face in new places, meet new people, and maybe even recruit some participants for my study.  I’m really excited about this dissertation, y’all. It should be good. 🙂

All of this craziness of the spring, will hopefully prepare me for the beginning of a job search in the fall. I’m not sure what I’m looking for or where I’m headed but I know it’s going to be good!

So much good stuff is on the way and I’m just excited to be busy and productive and healthy and happy.

It’s a good day.

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All The Fun Things

My goal for this year was to have more fun. I wanted to get out of my apartment and really start doing things. I realize that in a few months my life may be consumed with data collection and dissertation writing. I want to make the most of the “free time” that I believe I have.  Yes, I know I should be reading and writing and working on my proposal, but I also know I don’t want to miss out on life anymore.

If you check out my wanderlust page, you’ll see that I’ve been making moves in 2015. I keep telling friends that I’ve had more fun since I turned 30 than I did my whole year at 29. I’d like to keep up that streak.

I’ve been very fortunate to have the means to travel for professional and personal reasons.  While I’m still on a vacation “high”, I’m ready to plan my next trip. I actually get a fall break this year friends!  So, we’ll see where I end up.  In the meantime, I’ve been looking at fun weekend adventures right here in South Carolina. Wineries, concerts, cooking classes, comedy shows, and beach trips are all possibilities for the next couple months.  Not to mention that football season is almost here and I’m excited to claim my student tickets to show off the stadium to my dad and visiting friends.

My goal for the fall is to stay productive and positive, while moving forward with my program timeline, projects for my faculty, and commitments to professional organizations.  There’s a lot coming up this year but I’m so excited and so blessed to have so many people sharing my life.

What are you excited for in 2015-2016? What do you do for fun?

Hello old friend…

Hello again,

I realized this morning how long it’s been since my last real post. In case you were wondering, I survived the end of the spring semester.  I met all of my deadlines, I got high marks in my courses, and I dove head first into a whirlwind summer.

After spending a solid week advocating for my precious PhD timeline and combating class cancellations, I started summer classes. I’ve already finished one, the second will be done next week, then a small 5 day break before the final summer course begins.  Let’s just say I’m excited for July.

But what really brought my back is my friend’s blog post from today. Go read it. Michael Goodman’s wonderful. You’ll like it. 🙂

His blog about wandering and taking risks and not having all the answers reminded me of thoughts I’ve had randomly in the last month or so.  So, whenever you’re in school, people want to know when you’re going to be done with school.  It’s just natural. “You won’t be in school forever, so what are you going to do next and when will you have to make that decision? I want to know so I can follow up with you around that time and ask a more informed question that’s accurate in delivery so you can know that I listen when you tell me things and I care about you.” (These are the thoughts running through our minds.) However, if you’ve ever talked to any student that was on the verge of completing any degree, they most often don’t have an answer.  There are so many factors: getting hired, getting into the next degree program, moving, not moving, other people to consider.  It’s overwhelming and really we’re just trying to finish the first hurdle.

At least that’s how I feel. I feel like I still have so much left in this program to complete so I shouldn’t spend too much time on what happens after.  And still, I want to know myself. What am I working towards? It’s not the degree. I’m confident I’ll get the degree. That’s not the problem. It’s the after graduation that’s the question.

I’m looking forward to (prayerfully) graduating in December of next year.  That’s an odd time for hiring if I’m looking at any job at a college or university. That’s just not the cycle.  I want to use that spring semester to do something different.  I want to travel or live abroad or find some temporary post-doctoral program where I can just live somewhere else for a while. That sounds fun and terrifying all at the same time.  It’s also not me at all.  But hey, I’ve learned more about myself in the last 8 months.  I need to take better care of myself. I can’t work in a place without external support (more on that in another post). I’m probably going to be exhausted after my dissertation is complete.  So what better choice than to go off and do something completely unexpected! You know, with all that money I’ll have after life as a grad student for 2 years. But that’s not for me to decide. If it’s meant to be, God will provide the resources as He graciously continues to do each month.

So, then to add to that, the second confirmation that this might be a path I take.  I’m considering doing a mission trip.  I’ve never done one but I think that’s something that’s been presented to me as an option.  I’m not sure what that will look like or what that could be but having these two out-of-the-box thoughts in the same month can’t be an accident.  Again, I know I’ll be led in the right direction.  I’m excited to see what unfolds in the next year or so.

As Michael reminded me today, it’s ok to not know.  It’s ok to not know what you don’t know. It’s ok to wander. To move. To change. To evolve. To set yourself up for success in whatever way success lives for you.

Do. You. Boo. And do it unapologetically.

A Short Hiatus

After diligently writing and posting for about two weeks, the end of the spring semester hit…HARD. The month of April was not playing around and I was slammed with end of the semester papers, projects, a final exam, and a conference proposal. I decided I was finished with the blog writing challenge while I focused on my coursework.

I quickly turned my focus to a guest blog post for ACPA’s Coalition for Women’s Identities (formerly the Standing Committee on Women). So while I’m diving head first into a hectic summer course load full of reading, discussion board posts, and research activities, enjoy my latest reflection piece, The Truth Behind the Title.

Be back soon!

Being It

Part 3 of 3. Read parts 1 and 2!

In the first two parts of this series, I talked about life as a cycle of losing and finding myself.  I was thinking about this yesterday but couldn’t quite get everything to come together to write about it.  I’m closer but a series of quotes will most likely explain what I’m thinking.

“Not till we are lost do we begin to find ourselves.”- Henry David Thoreau

This describes the process. This is my life. I’m realizing that growth comes from the struggle. It’s when we’re put to the test that we really see “what we’re made of”.

“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”- Unknown

So what now? After a struggle or a trauma, it’s natural to want to hide and become invisible.  It feels as though everyone is looking at you and seeing what you’ve done.  You’re marked. You’re stained. You’re tainted in a way.  But here’s the thing. You are not what you do.  You are more than your actions, your job, your title.

I commit today to no longer define myself by my actions, right or wrong, good or bad.  That’s only a piece of my story.  I will reflect upon and pick the adjectives that describe me, my character, my heart. I will keep that at the forefront.  No longer afraid to live. To be seen. To be happy.  To experience the full spectrum of emotions.

“And the day came when the risk it took to remain tightly closed in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to bloom.  This is the element of freedom.” -Alicia Keys, The Element of Freedom

Stay encouraged, everyone.  Every day that we have on this earth is another chance to get it right. Another chance to reinvent ourselves. Another opportunity to live the life that was meant for us.  We don’t have to suffer. We don’t have to be ashamed.  We can learn from the hard times and take those lessons with us into the future.

I leave you with this. Found on a friend’s cover photo.

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“It’s okay to be a glow stick. Sometimes we need to break before we SHINE.”

Dear Memory

For those of you following along, I’ve been participating in a blog writing challenge for the last couple of weeks.  Today’s prompt challenged me to pick up a book near me, flip to page 29, and pick out the first word that stuck out to me to use as inspiration. Well… the only book in my backpack was my APA manual. So…pg. 29 was devoid of inspiring words. But I did see the word memory on the page so… here we go. I’ve had some issues with my memory. I’m pretty forgetful so I thought I’d share my concerns.

Dear Memory,

Are you there? I’m not always sure you come to work every day.

I have a few questions for you today. I’m concerned with your performance. I know you have a very sophisticated filing system, but I always feel like you can’t find the file I’m looking for when I need it. You’re very responsive about sending me files that I haven’t requested, but again, not usually what I ever need.  What’s the issue? Is there a reason you can’t provide the requested information at the time of the request?

Have I overworked you? This is a fast-paced, working environment so I realize you have a lot of juggle at the same time.  You’re the only one working in this department and the demands are high.

Are you really tired and just taking a lot of vacation days? Perhaps you forget to put up your “out of office” message but then don’t check your email upon your return.  I thought we had a good system for submitting requests.  Let me know if you need to re-evaluate the process for file retrieval.

And what’s with the damaged files? You know the ones that have missing pages so that I have the beginning and ends of a document but not the middle? What’s up with that? Was there water damage in the file room? Please let me know if I need to remove certain liquids or start providing supplements to boost file protection.

But, maybe you’re protecting me from something. Are there encrypted files that I’m not supposed to access? Do I not have a certain level of security clearance? Who does?  Are there files that you deleted for my safety because I’m better off not seeing that information?

I trust that you know what you’re doing. You came highly recommended at one point and I’m not trying to fire you. I’ve just been concerned with your performance in the last few years.  Please let me know how I can best support you in the coming years.  There’s no end date on your contract so this job is yours as long as you want it.  I hope you’ll stay with me for a long, long time.

Sincerely,

Management

 

Finding It

Part 2 of 3. Read part 1 here.

Losing it. Finding it. Losing it. Finding it. What are we searching for? For what are we searching? Happiness. Freedom. Self love. Self care. Self esteem. Success. Achievement. Titles. Family. Love. A person. Security. Happiness.

I’ve talked about losing myself. Losing sight of who I am. Forgetting from whence I’ve come. Forgetting who I represent. Not just who I am, but Whose I am.

Now I’m trying to find myself. Find those parts of me that got lost in the shuffle. That got stuffed away with all of the things I didn’t want to feel. I’m pretty sure Brene Brown said you can’t feel the good without feeling the bad.  I didn’t have time to deal with and feel the loneliness, the betrayals, the abandonments.  All in such close succession.  But that also meant I couldn’t feel the lasting joys, and laughters, and loves, and joys, and peace. The moments of satisfaction were always quickly followed with moments of sadness and because I didn’t want to feel that I stopped feeling at all.

Before I knew it I was a shell.  I didn’t recognize myself. I was trying on new versions of myself that weren’t authentic but I told myself I was being authentic. I was acting on every spontaneous idea because look where caution had gotten me. Nowhere. So why not try some risks? Maybe things will be better. But that wasn’t me either. That was relatively worse. It didn’t fit.

So who am I?

I want to find ways to merge the me’s together.  Take the peaks and the valleys of my life and squish them into a straight line pointing toward the future.  Who am I now, but who do I want to be tomorrow?  How will I get there? What can I do?

I’m searching. I’m learning. I’m trying. I’m finding.

For me. About me. To be me. Me.

…and that’s real.

I’m not always good about speaking up in the moment. I’ll watch or see or experience things and consider saying something, but I hesitate.  And then I replay the scene over and over wishing I had opened my mouth.

This happened to me yesterday. I was in class. We had a guest lecturer but my professor was still there.  The professor (a White male, this is relevant later) was invited to begin as we were all settled in.  Mind you, there are seven of us in class, 3 females, 4 males, 1 Black student, 1 international student, 5 PhD students, 1 undergraduate student, 1 master’s student, 5 psychology majors, 2 non-psych majors.

So, before this guest begins his lecture, he asks to go around and do introductions. So the first male student to his right introduces himself (name, major, senior year). The next male (the international student) is a PhD psychology student who the professor knows so he decided he didn’t need to say anything because they know each other. Cool. Skip. Next, male student (the master’s student in a non-psych major) introduces himself.  The next two students in the circle are the other two females, PhD, psych students. He knows them (they don’t do introductions by the way). Then me, then another psych student (that’s the circle.  So after the master’s student the professor just nods and says ok cool thanks. Or something like that. Checks in with my professor that the powerpoint is ready to go and then begins his lecture.

(Deep breath). I froze. He didn’t make eye contact with me. If he had I would have spoken up. I was waiting for him to prompt me to introduce myself but he didn’t.  The whole time in those seconds, minute before he began his lecture I thought I should speak up and say “oh hi by the way we haven’t met” or something nice and passive. I said nothing. I just got internally frustrated and upset and confused and then mad at myself and just replayed the whole thing over and over.

WHY DIDN’T I SAY ANYTHING?! I don’t know.  Maybe it’s that whole “speak with spoken to” thing I was raised under. I felt like I needed permission. But then I get mad. Why do I feel like I need permission? I have good thoughts. I’m a person. I have value!

WHY DIDN’T HE ACKNOWLEDGE ME? Did he think he’d already met me? Read: I must look like some other light-skinned Black girl in the psych department that he had in another class (side eye). OR Was he not interested in knowing who I was? He made sure to acknowledge the other men in the room. But my gender identity wasn’t as annoyed as my other identities.  I’m a freaking PhD student too! These guys were the educational minorities of the room. But they were acknowledged. I’m important too! Did he assume I was another non-PhD student? Why did he assume that?!

(Deep sigh) Needless to say, I was in my feelings the entire class. Plus, another student was facilitating a discussion (course requirement) and I was triggered by her choice of words. Ex. “women and other minorities”, “Obamacare”, variations on these themes. I wrote them down in my notebook since I wasn’t able to speak on that during the discussion. But I did rant a little bit on a related note in the discussion as I illuminated my opinion that the current societal shortcomings of our country are a direct result of choices made during our founding 200+ years ago.

So, Stacey, what’s the point of all this? My point is I’m still finding my voice. I’ve been silenced in different ways for different reasons so many times and I still struggle with myself. I’m screaming in my head and nothing comes out. Or I say far too much and wish I could stuff those words back inside my head.  I’m still looking for that balance. I’m still looking for those safe spaces where I can explore and test those boundaries. There’s a line. And a context. And relationships that allow for flexibility and trial and error.  I just can’t forget that I have a voice and it is valuable.

This post is dedicated to WordPress for providing me an outlet to share my voice, in a safe space, where I can test my personal boundaries. Thanks to those of you that read, comment, and like my posts.  You’re the relationships that help measure what’s working and what’s not.

Home

As a child of a parent in the military, I’m somewhat envious of my peers that have a place they strongly identify as “home”. The house they grew up in is the same one their parents live in today. It’s the place where their family still gathers every year.  The place they’ll bring their children too. The place that will always represent family and home and memories and everything that generally provides a warm, nostalgic feeling.

I’ve tried to figure out what that place is for me.  Unlike most military children, I had the benefit of not moving around a lot as a result of my father’s assignments, at least not in a way that I really remember or that impacted me significantly.  I was born in Kansas. Three months later we moved to Burke, VA. A few years later we moved to Woodbridge, VA. I remember that house on Valleyhill St. but only the second time around. We didn’t sell that house, but we moved to Japan shortly after arriving there I guess. I was 5, so only my parents and brothers really know how those years in VA went down. Haha.

I remember Valleyhill St. after we returned. I started second grade. We lived there until right before my freshman year of HS.  Why did we leave? It wasn’t a new assignment, my dad retired in ’97.  My folks decided they wanted a new house. Their last move. The place they’d settle into. So we moved to a new neighborhood. That was the one time I really felt the “starting over” experience that other military kids felt every 2-3 years. I was pretty lucky. It took a while but I made my way. I graduated, I left that house for college.

Then one fall semester I realized that I wouldn’t be going to that house for Christmas. My parents had decided to move again. Lol. So Fredericksburg, VA became “home”. That was cool. Mom seemed satisfied (for the time being).  A few more years went by and then it happened again. Last year. My parents moved once more. Now to Stafford, VA. They say that this was the last move. They’re buying new furniture and having fun decorating (something that never really happened after Valleyhill St.).

I guess my mom never really let herself settle in. My dad got moved around a lot during his time in the Army. She was used to being an officer’s wife and setting up shop and packing it all up with kids in tow.  So even though those last few moves were in-state and by choice, she probably had an itch she didn’t realize was there.

But now my parents are grandparents. They’re in love with their new house. It kinda feels like home for me when I visit, but I think it’s just because that’s where my parents are.

I still think about the house of my childhood that I actually remember.  The last place my brothers and I inhabited at the same time in 1994. My oldest brother is 8 1/2 years old that me with another brother in the middle.  He left for college in ’94 and “had a room” until ’98 right before we moved (that one time).

It’s so interesting how all of these houses came to be. My parents could have just settled into Valleyhill St. after we got back from Japan.  I would’ve gone to a different HS, would’ve made different friends, maybe gone to a different college and my who knows the ripple effect of that. But they didn’t. They moved around and I had a different life.

I guess that’s why I’ve been ok with moving around after college. I wasn’t nervous about living a couple hours from home in my first job. Or moving a couple states away for my second job. I’ve stayed in SC for school, but the itch to move is there. Not just because I’m ready to leave SC but because I’ve been here too long. It’ll be almost 6 years by the time I graduate and move on. That’s the longest I’ve been somewhere since Valleyhill St, my beloved childhood home.

Weird. This place has never really felt like home.  If we define it as time spent, you’d think SC would be close. But it’s not. It’s the people. My people are in Virginia. My heart is in Virginia. My home is in Virginia.

It doesn’t matter which house they’re living in. My parents are my home. And I can’t wait to go home soon.

Happy Birthday!

When I was growing up, the one thing I always loved (and still do) was pound cake.  My grandma would make one every now and then when she would come to visit in the summers.  By the time I went off to college that seemed to always be the one thing I wanted when I would come home.  My birthday usually fell right before spring break and I’d head home. My mom would call and ask what kind of cake I wanted or if there’s was anything special she could get.  The answer was always pound cake.

If you think about it, this cake is kinda perfect.  You can eat it with your hands. It’s somewhat portable. There’s no need for icing so less calories (minus the pound of butter inside of course). A glaze is just a bonus but totally optional.  It’s almost like a sweet bread like pumpkin bread or zucchini bread.  If you’re running late you can cut a slice and eat it for breakfast! That might be part of the true appeal now that I think about it. My mom always made sure we ate something before school. So if I didn’t wake up early enough for a real breakfast (who’s surprised by that?! lol), she would send me out the door with a piece of pound cake for the bus or the 5 minute drive to school.  Any dessert I can eat for breakfast is a win in my book 🙂

What is your favorite childhood meal?