“How is your dissertation going?”
Never before has a simple question packed such a punch. Five little words strike fear into my heart as I remember I have a countless number of things to do before I get that title after my name: Ph.D.
There are so many reasons I feel like I’m failing at my dissertation and school, which I used to love. The first reason is I never have any time to write. Yes, I find time to write on sites such as Feminism and Religion and others when I should be writing my dissertation but they each serve a different purpose; mainly, this site acts as salvation to my long wrought out mingling with my source materials while my dissertation acts as a catalyst for the growing number of gray hairs I seem to have.
Two, although I can picture the text in my head and see where I need to go in the sequence of my yet-to-be-written prose, the daunting and oftentimes perilous act of sitting down and writing has been keeping me from putting figurative pen to actual paper (or fingers to keyboard).
Three, I’m way too involved. I’ve always prided myself with being able to “do it all,” but maybe the thing I’ve needed to realize these last few months is that one person cannot do it all. Being imperfect is a strength I’ve yet to fully embrace because as a gay person growing up in a small town, I taught myself that I needed to be perfect after everything so I could deflect any type of bigotry or hatred that would come my way. This is a crutch I still carry with me as I no longer run, but limp, towards the ultimate finish line.
Four, what’s the point? With the dwindling job market and tightening of the university purse strings, why I am running towards graduation if there is nothing to graduate into? Do I really want to leave my current job, where I get to do so much, for the current state of the university system? Sure, it’s great to finish, but if there is nothing there at the finish line, why am I figuratively running so hard to get there?
Five, I’m being stupid. Sure, I know I could just sit down and write my dissertation. I could scratch the surface of my topic without fully investing any more than “what is needed,” but that is not how I operate. Even though I’ve known many people who have done such things (can you blame them? I mean, the system beats you down), I care about my topic and more importantly, the people who shared things with me they’ve never told anyone.
So, here I sit, writing this post and yet reliving all of these failing over again. I need to make a change, and I need to stop focusing on failing and start focusing on (Trump trigger warning) winning again. I need to rediscover my passion for my research, sit down and outline where I need to go, and finally start writing knowing that I will get there. Yes, it may have take me 6-months extra but in the end, all that matters is that I get there, and I get there on my own terms.
Here is my promise not only to myself, but also to all of you: I will finish my Ph.D., and finish it soon. I’m going to start prioritizing my schoolwork and start making more tangible steps towards the finish line so I no longer feel like I’m failing but instead, accomplishing my dream of achieving my Ph.D. in American Religious History. It was fun being ABD and making excuses as to why I wasn’t writing that much and working on my dissertation every day but no more.
For once, I’m starting to feel like me again, and it feels great!
This blog is dedicated to all who have participated in this struggle, both in the past, present, and future!
John Erickson is a Ph.D. Candidate in American Religious History at Claremont Graduate University. He holds an MA in Women’s Studies in Religion; an MA in Applied Women’s Studies; and a BA in Women’s Literature and Women’s Studies. He is a Permanent Contributor to the blog Feminism and Religion, a Non-Fiction Reviewer for Lambda Literary, the leader in LGBT reviews, author interviews, opinions and news since 1989 and the Co-Chair of the Queer Studies in Religion section of the American Academy of Religion’s Western Region, the only regional section of the American Academy of Religion that is dedicated to the exploration of queer studies in religion and other relevant fields in the nation. He is currently the President of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s LGBTQA+ Alumni Association, the Vice- Chair of Public Relation and Social Media for the Stonewall Democratic Club, and the Non-Profit and Governmental Liaison for the Hollywood Chapter of NOW (National Organization for Women). When he is not working on his dissertation, he can be found at West Hollywood City Hall where he is the Community Events Technician and works on policies and special events relating to women, gender, sexuality, and human rights issues that are sponsored or co-sponsored by the City of West Hollywood. Additionally, he serves as the President of the City’s employee union, Local 3339 WEHOME, which is part of AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees). He is the author of the blog From Wisconsin, with Love and can be followed on Twitter@JErickson85. Photo of John: ©2015 Rebecca Dru Photography All Rights Reserved