I always challenge myself, possibly because I never think the work I do is enough for my satisfaction or because I know that I can do whatever I put myself through.
When I was a college student pursuing a BA degree, a Master’s degree seemed to be out of the equation. I wanted to further my studies, but I didn’t know if I ever would take that step towards going to graduate school. When I got accepted into the MA program within my college, I felt like it was meant to be; I was meant to go forward and continue my studies and get the MA degree that I always spoke about getting.
In 2016, I started grad school. In 2018, I finished and got my MA degree. I should feel accomplished. I should feel like I conquered the one thing that I wanted to do within my studies. I should feel like I’m qualified enough, that I know enough, that what I have and learned is enough to succeed within the field I want to be in.
Hi, my name is Liz, and I’m going through a hard, long conversation with myself about getting a Ph.D. in Rhetoric & Composition.
I’m fucking crazy, just say it.
While in grad school, I told myself that I was going to move to get my Ph.D. after my Master’s, but with the exhaustion and poor mental health I experienced because of grad school, it told me otherwise. My Master’s was enough, and the experience I had as a grad student is something I will always feel good about because I did it, but I gained much more than just a new, shiny, degree. I gained a passion.
My mentor, Ro, and I have been working on writing a journal article this last month. It has been a project we discussed doing ever since I was a Teacher’s Assistant for her graduate class, and with the current COVID-19 circumstances, we decided to use this time to write and get something published. During the time I’m writing this, we are in the final stages of our official draft before we submit it to the journal we’ve been thinking of submitting it to! I don’t know if it was because we had all the time in the world to write this, but it took us literally a week to complete a full first rough draft, and for me – it was rewarding. Not only will the context of my thesis will be published in an actual academic journal, but this is ultimately the path I want to take in life! I want to be a part of the conversations happening in this field.
But, I still feel like I don’t belong.
I feel like my voice and my ideas are still so underdeveloped and immature; I still remain hopeful in a field that hasn’t really changed since it started. Sure, the ideas and the philosophies in this field have become more progressive and modern to fit its time, but it’s one thing to talk about it and then be about it, as Asao Inoue discussed in his CCCC 2019 Keynote Speech. In a field with so many voices speaking at once, I wonder where mine would even fit in. Is my register loud enough to be heard? Am I just living in a fantasy world where I fit in this field? I don’t know.
To some degree, I explained this to Ro during our phone conversation discussing about our article. One thing Ro does best is always reminds me that my voice matters, and my ideas are just as important as anyone else’s. Particularly in this article, she went on to say that my section of the article brings life to it because I’m new, I’m fresh, and I have something to say as someone who is new in this field. Ro is my mentor for a reason; she embodies where I want to be in my life career wise. Being as young as she is and as accomplished as she is, it’s definitely inspirational to see someone as successful and so driven in this field. Plus, she’s just an awesome person in general, and I’m grateful for her presence and professional guidance in my life.
It’s interesting (and motivational) to hear that I’m considered a new, fresh face in this community of writing studies. It surely doesn’t feel it, and I feel like I have a lot more reading and research to do on my side of things, but just hearing that to some degree, with some expertise, I know what this field of study is. Still, I’m not satisfied with what I know. I want to know more. I want to do more. I want to be more.
Pursing a PhD isn’t just something to take lightly, so I’m not writing this and applying for PhD programs as we speak. It’s just something I’ve been thinking about further down the road or when I feel like I’m ready. Maybe I’ll never be ready, maybe I’ll be ready sooner than later; who knows. If there’s anything that being in this space during quarantine has taught me, it’s that once my time at the bookstore is over (not anytime soon, but also I don’t plan to stay there forever), I know where my next step in my career is going.
Maybe I am enough. Maybe my Masters degree is enough to pursue a career in this field (or just a field where I’m helping college students… even teaching may be down the line), but maybe my voice and passion and drive to be in this field is enough.
Maybe me, in its purest form, is enough, despite how much I say I’m not.