Now that I have successfully defended the dissertation, been awarded the degree that has been framed appropriately, been affirmed as SisterMentors 20th Ph.D. with a very special celebration and have been honored by family and friends in a culminating social gathering, I can exhale and take a moment, maybe two, to reflect upon the past experiences that have gotten me to this point in my life. It goes without saying that I did not get here on my own. I can attest that for many days it was only the grace of God that kept me committed to this awesome task of earning a doctorate degree. Additionally, family, friends and professional colleagues provided social support that cannot be measured in a tangible way. The greatest gift that I received during this educational journey was provided by the women of color who comprise SisterMentors. Words become inadequate when I attempt to describe what I received by being a member of this very special community of scholars.
As the memories of these wonderful events begin to settle into the recesses of my mind, they remain nearby and can be relived to bring a smile to my face. However, I cannot forget the challenges that could have prevented this very happy ending. Samuel Johnson wrote that, “Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance.” Indeed, perseverance became my friend beyond measure. If anyone had told me that it would take exactly 18 months and 9 days to get a defense date from the time that I submitted my completed dissertation, I would have laughed them off as being out of touch with reality. Yet, after experiencing such an insufferable delay, I can only conclude that “my great work” was deemed as a test of my endurance and faith. Jokingly, I told friends that a “lesser woman” than me would have been rendered insane by this challenge. The tribulation of this delay almost minimized the extraordinary work that I had accomplished to complete my dissertation. With each passing day, I began to doubt whether I would ever be given an opportunity to defend my research and be granted the Ph.D. Could all of this work have been in vain? Not hardly. Why me? I did not deserve this. Who were these people who had this kind of power over my educational advancement? A truly unique dissertation committee with their own lives filled with everyday trials, like all of us.
When placed in its proper perspective, I could relate to the academic lived experiences and life events of my research participants that paralleled my own. However, it became a bit harder to relate to the experiences of my dissertation committee members, simply because I had placed them beyond the reach of human frailty. They were not permitted to get sick, to have family emergencies, or to just be real people. Somehow, I had determined that they would be ready and willing to move mountains to schedule my defense date because it was their job to do so. Now that I have taken time to reflect on my particular journey, from dissertation completion to dissertation defense, I realize that life happens and we either endure or we perish. Thankfully, I chose to persevere and am here to claim the victory.
I hope that my experience is truly an aberration and is not the norm for those who are coming after me in this educational pursuit. Know that if you encounter challenges along the way that they are transitory. Your faith, perseverance and strength are more powerful than temporary setbacks. After all, we are phenomenal women, we are SisterMentors.