Friday, August 23, 2013

What's Up, Doc?

I watched my Facebook feed like election results last Thursday night. The Likes and Comments kept rolling in. My status read:

Life on Clemson Road is about life in transition and this is one of the biggest for me. It’s the achievement of a life-long goal. It’s the completion of a seven year process. It’s the terminal degree for anyone who studies business. There isn’t anything higher. 

During my defense call which happened last Thursday night, one of my committee members said, “What will you do now?”

That’s easy: build my business. Be the very best at everything I do. Continue to work hard. 
Show my daughter what it looks like to Lean In.

My father-in-law might call it “Fudd” but it’s the furthest thing from a pudgy 1940’s cartoon character. I made a promise to Charlie and I fulfilled it. I promised myself and I met it. I am truly accomplished.

And a little surprised by the sound of it said aloud. Like when I got married and changed my name.

Kasie Whitener, PhD.

Forever now I’ll have that Fudd. That demarcation that says, “She’s not afraid of hard work.”

In Six Tires, No Plan, his biography and the story of Discount Tire Company, Bruce Halle, author of The Dream as we are living it, says,

“Once you get your education and get your degree, that’s yours. No one can take that from you. Some things in life in the future might go bad and you could lose a lot, or most, or all of your worldy possessions, but no one is ever going to take that college degree from you, that education. It’s there. It’s yours forever,” (p.52).

Charlie read me that passage on Friday night, after we’d spent the day sort of thinking about what does the PhD completion really mean for us? For our family?

Really, it means we’re not afraid of hard work. We’re not afraid of working together to achieve anything we set out to achieve. It’s a significant milestone not just for me, but for Charlie who has been supporting this effort for the better part of our 12 year marriage.

It’s more than a piece of paper or letters behind my name. It’s the outward and visible sign of a certain character, knowledge, and ability. And even though it’s only on my business card, like our wedding bands, it’s a commitment to one another, a tie that binds us.

When I wrote about milestones I meant this was one. I graduated high school 18 years ago and have spent 13 of those 18 years in higher education. Four in undergrad at Clemson University. Two and a half at Winthrop University for a master’s degree. Seven at Capella University for this PhD. 

And now I get to work for roughly 30 more years at this, the terminal degree rate. I haven’t won the lottery. In fact, I’ll be picking up student loan payments in about 6 months. I don’t get to stop working. 

I have to work even harder. I have higher expectations than ever.

These days, though, I’m not going to feel crushed under the weight of them. I’m going to remind myself what fulfillment feels like. I’m going to ask myself what Daniel Pink calls interrogative preparation, “Is this the right thing for me to be doing?” I’m going to decide to live up to my own expectations and surpass others’ expectations of me.

Okay. Enough about all that. Time to get back to work.

Thanks to those of you who supported me all this time. You know who you are but you could leave a comment, if you’d like the internet to know it, too!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Measuring Progress

The process of becoming a PhD is measured in milestones. These are certain achievements that document the progress I’ve made since choosing my committee members (Fall 2008) through total dissertation completion (Summer 2013). 

I have been in milestone 10 – committee approval – for about six months. I confessed my response to a particular committee member’s remarks by describing myself as a petulant child.

Last weekend, another member suggested changes that would require significant sentence-level editing. On Tuesday I just glued myself to the laptop and did it. Five hours of editing later, I’m ready to try for milestone 11.

Milestones help us in two significant ways.

First, they articulate where we’ve been by naming that place, tagging the memory. We use milestones like anniversaries and birthdays in this way. Events help us put regular days in context. For a while we referred to things as happening “before 9/11” or “after 9/11.”

During football season we use the game weekends to define the calendar. “That’s Florida State weekend,” or “That’s after homecoming.”

Milestones give us names to help distinguish one day or date from another. For example, Charlie and I have been married 12 years. When I think of year six, I’m not sure, exactly, when that was.

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