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.


But when I remind myself of that July 4th in Manila, watching You Tube videos of Lee Greenwood’s "Proud to be an American," crying into my Budweiser, and instant messaging with Charlie, I remember year six vividly. 

We had never been so far apart.

Manila is 12 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time so when I was IM’ing Charlie it was 7 p.m. Wednesday for him and 7 a.m. Thursday for me.

He would say, “Hello, future girl. What’s Thursday like?”

I would say, “It’s coming.”

Photo by LJR
The second way milestones help us is to quantify our progress away from and towards specific life events. In every process there are expectations to achieve a new level. Milestones help define those levels and provide us with a road map. Milestones set expectations and give us something to look forward to.

In week six of my half marathon training I’ll run nine miles on a Sunday morning. That’s a milestone that predicts my level of fitness at the six-week mark. Though I have a hard time envisioning myself on the road for a nine mile run, I know if I keep the pace of workouts I have scheduled, my body will be ready for it.

These milestones in grief sound like, “three months since,” and “six months ago,” and “it’s been almost a year.” While right now I cannot believe it’s been three months since my sweet Nana died, I have a much harder time imagining myself saying, “It’s been five years.”

I know that day is coming.

I don’t know what “It’s been five years,” will sound like or feel like, but I know it’s coming. As sure as I know in two weeks my little HB starts kindergarten and high school graduation is coming. As sure as I know milestone 11 (school approval) and 12 (format and editing) and 13 (final committee conference call) are all coming.

Some milestones we race to and through. With others, we worry about the change we will undergo while slogging toward it. We dread them, fear them, or recoil from them. We work for them or suffer through them.

Someday I’ll use the phrase, “It’s been three months,” to describe another loss, or the phrase, “It’s been almost a year,” to describe another separation. I might say, “Ever since 2013,” to describe a credential or the history of something I’ve built this year.

These milestones are measurements. They quantify our loss and our progress and sometimes the one seems very much like the other.

What milestones have you experienced recently?

8 comments:

  1. I love that pic of your daughter!! So cute!! Great post Kasie!

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    1. Thanks, Dana, and thanks for stopping by Clemson Road. I need to get her out for some more pictures. My cousin made a stack of them for me but it's been over a year now. They're my favorites to use on this blog.

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  2. Great post and great prompt, Kasie.

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    1. Thanks, Michelle. I'm prone to reflection especially when it feels like I'm no longer making progress.

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  3. Again, may I just say,"WOW!" You are amazing and as I reflect on your milestones I am reminded of a little girl who when asked "what do you want to be when you grow up, Kasie?" stated very clearly, "a Solid Gold Dancer or an astronaut." So you have not done either of those and for that I am grateful because I truly believe you are where you should be at this moment in time. You are right about milestones defining time for us and they also give us a gauge in which we can measure not only our successes but our failures, our joys, and our sorrows. The older I get I find myself remembering not only my milestones but you and your sisters' milestones. Treasure each milestone of HB's because they truly are all the more precious as you get older and remember them. In closing, always know I am there cheering for you and supporting you every step of the way. You are an amazing woman and I am so proud to call you my daughter!

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    1. Thanks, mom. Milestones are much easier to achieve and appreciate when we have a vocal cheering section!

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  4. Great post, Kasie. And to answer your question, my most recent milestone was securing a publisher for my first fiction novel. That followed the research process, outlining, writing the first draft, revising the draft, a crash course in the publishing industry including reading nearly all 900 pages of the 2013 Writer's Market, query letters, submissions, and jubilation. Now I wait for the next milestone: receiving and tackling the first round of edits from my publisher/editor. I try not to dwell on the next milestone because when I do, the fear of discovering that my baby is not as beautiful as I once thought her to be creeps up and taps me on the shoulder. I've been so high on jubilation mountain since the book was accepted. I know the fall is gonna sting! But, I know this milestone must come and pass, or else my baby will never be born. Thank you for the though provoking post. One day you must tell me more about Manila. I'm intrigued!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Clemson Road, Jodie!

      Securing a publisher is a HUGE milestone. Congratulations!

      I know the editing/revision process can be scary and a bit painful, but the other side of the edits is a great place to be!

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