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hello, external.

March 21, 2017

lisa hammershaimb

And just like that…I have an external committee member, feedback from the internal committee member previously known as the external committee member, and a list of potential dates for my formal proposal defense.

On Thursday morning (in before external time) I woke up with the conscious resolve to be through with the drama and shift my focus toward proactive researcher self-improvement. I was going to master NVivo, qualitative research analysis, and finally investigate Scribner. In addition, I was going to get back to blogging more regularly because writing helps me not only be a better writer but also process life.

Oh, and I was about to embark on an 16 hour road trip to Colorado so having a head filled with positive possibilities was way preferable to a head filled with “what-if” scenarios involving me never getting an external.

Somewhere between the Mississippi River and Des Moines, I got an email saying the five words I’d been fantasizing about for over two weeks, “An external candidate has agreed.” I kept on reading it over and over again just to make sure it actually was real…I had really understood and there actually was no rejection in the sentence. Reading the news was like a giant exhale.

I used to think that this kind of waiting was all an academic head game—it existed in my mind and just involved mental toughness, steely resolve, and perseverant thinking. I’ve since come to realize, like anything in life, waiting and all the complex emotions it brings is a whole body thing. I felt the tension of waiting in my chest and in my shoulders—the frustration and anger of waiting was in my stomach. It seemed even at times I felt the impact of waiting running in my veins. Waiting is achy, exhausting, uncomfortable business.

This experience has made me realize I know very little about patience and trust…I know very little about waiting with grace. Looking back from the comfort that is resolution, I can fully acknowledge that my experience of waiting was basically a first world problem…it was never “if” I would receive a positive resolution, rather it was just “when” that positive resolution would come. I have people in my life who are waiting on questions that have no guaranteed positive answers, just invitations to be present and learn from living within the tension. This experience has made me realize these people may be true superheroes…they certainly are people I want to learn from.

This experience has also made me realize the best thing about being in a season of waiting is the knowledge that you’re not alone. Given the complexity of my situation, my friends couldn’t fix it or make it go away. That said, they could and did listen as I worked through all the messiness of my feelings and rehashed the situation again trying to find a solution within my power to enact (even as we both knew deep down known that a “situation” of our own making was a myth at best.) These friends did not make the waiting hurt less but they did help me find perspective and humor in its midst. These too are the people I want to learn from…the friends who never cease to inspire me.

In the midst of all this, my supervisor and I discussed once more that doing a doctorate is roughly 20% growing a knowledge base and 80% growing as a person. These past two weeks have been crazy hard but I’m hopeful they’ve contributed a bit more to the 80%. Last week I could never imagine thinking this but…though it is excruciating at times, I’m glad for the process. Well, perhaps I should qualify that…I’m almost as glad about the process as I am that I now have an external. : )

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