Week 13: Gratitude

I will be the first to admit that as the semester draws to a close, I spend less time writing my weekly Black Girl Does Grad School posts, and more time pouring over books and articles to sustain one of the multiple arguments for my final papers. I have spent much of the last couple of weeks stressing and wondering how it’s all going to get done.

This is my fifth semester as a graduate student, so you’d think I would know by now that it always gets done. Some way, somehow, I always manage to pull through to the end of the semester.

As it stands currently, I have three more class sessions in which I have to be present. 8.5 hours of class time standing between me and the end of the semester– me and the last time I ever have to be in classes as a student (Unless, of course, I decide to pursue a MFA in creative writing after I finish this whole enterprise, but that, my friends, is a beast of an entirely different nature).

As I approach the end of this stage of my doctoral program, I think it would be a great moment to practice some gratitude for everybody and everything that has gotten me through the past two and a half years.

Thank you:

  • First, to my parents. Thanks Mom, for always listening patiently when I called home with some story about miscegenation law from the 19th century. Thanks Dad, for throwing in your two cents when I read off some of my Critical Race Theory texts to you, confirming or denying these very abstract theoretical claims from your personal perspective.
  • To my family generally, for supporting my education however you could– from all the Barnes and Noble gift cards to showing up at my graduations (But like shout out to TJ in particular for never missing a single important occasion even after you moved away).
  • To my best friends, Micah, Kelsey, Alexis, Leah and Kaili. Y’all are the sisters I always wanted. The best friends I could ever ask for. Thank you for all the texts, the phone calls, the FaceTimes, the meet ups, the coffee dates. Thank you for your time and support.
  • To my favorite professors– Dr. Weiss, Dr. Ely, Dr. Losh, Dr. McGovern, Dr. Donnor– for always pushing me; for challenging me to think deeper and harder; for knowing that I am capable of more and always encouraging me to show that; and for believing in me as I am, and me as I will be.
  • To my Master’s committee: Dr. Knight, Dr. Weiss, and Dr. McGovern
  • To my Comps committee: Dr. Weiss, Dr. Losh, Dr. Pinson and Dr. Ely
  • To James Padilioni, Jr. Thank you for being a role model for me. Always trying to get like you.
  • To Chris Slaby (and Cameron Slaby) for all of the stimulating conversations and for always welcoming me into your home.
  • To those in the digital humanities/twitter community who have welcomed me, valued me and my contributions and encouraged me: Nathan Dize, Dr. Parr, Dr. Wernimont, Dr. Phillips, Dr. Johnson, Dr. Foreman, Dr. Steele, Dr. Lothian
  • To the many Black graduate student digital networks that I remain on the fringes of, but whose work I admire.
  • The Lemon Project Team, particularly Dr. Allen, Dr. Sarah Thomas, and Dr. Vineeta Singh, for caring for me so diligently.
  • Dr. Wulf for being supportive of me and my endeavors.
  • Thanks, as always, to Dean Gregory and Ms. Cathy for always happily responding to my (sporadic) calls and emails.
  • To Professor Harold. I wouldn’t be where I am had it not been for several conversations with you on the Corner, in your office and around Grounds.
  • To everyone involved in any way with Black Girl Does Grad School. I LOVE Y’ALL. Y’all are making my dreams come true every day.

But also, thank you:

  • My lovebug, Genghis. You’re getting an honorary degree when I get this PhD, bud.
  • To the staff of Aromas on North Boundary. The caffeine fix keeps me sane.
  • To Charles Benbow and the staff of The Coffeehouse. When I do go, I stay all afternoon and work, drinking cup after cup of delicious coffee. Thanks for the good drinks and ambience.
  • To Lorelai and Rory, for keeping me company so many difficult evenings.
  • The Library, ILL and the librarians. Y’all are the real MVPs.

…Did I already thank my parents? Eric and Faye, seriously, thanks for giving me the world.

Week 12: A Quick Love Letter to Myself, Past, Present and Future

Dear little Ravynn,

I hope I’m making you proud. I’m not the engineer you envisioned, nor the diplomat you came to dream about as you aged. I’m sorry to disappoint you but you outgrew almost all of your friends (except Jared, he’s still around so be extra nice to him next time you see him.) You didn’t get to go to Governor’s School, you stopped playing piano when you got to college and you didn’t go to Princeton.

But you did get to go to your dream college: The University of Virginia. You cry almost every time you think about the look on your Dad’s face when you met up with your family after the big graduation ceremony on the Lawn. You’re working towards becoming a professor, which means you’re getting a Ph.D. I know you’ve always wanted to be a Dr. It’s taken you a while, but you finally found friends I think you’ll manage to hold onto. Oh, and you did, at one point, cut off all your hair, just like you wanted. (Granted, parts of your hair did fall out from stress first so you had to cut it–but that’s not what matters most.)

You’re not as far away from home as you’d always hoped, but you do have your own apartment, your own car, and a dog that you named Genghis. And even though you may not want to admit it, you do like going home almost every weekend to see your Mom and Dad while you’re in grad school.

Keep dreaming big. Your accomplishments will exceed your wildest dreams.

Love,

Ravynn


Dear Ravynn,

I promise, you’re going to be alright.

Love,

Ravynn


Dear Future Ravynn,

I hope you published those novels you’ve been sitting on since June of 2015. I hope you got that Ph.D. I hope you’ve got tenure. I hope you started that magazine. I hope you write your heart out all the time. I hope people are reading and engaging with your words the way you’ve always dreamed.

But most of all I hope you’re happy.

I hope you got to see Chicago and San Francisco, Senegal and Italy. I hope you teach with kindness and compassion. I hope you changed a few lives or spoke to a few hearts along the way.

I hope you find your voice– not your writing voice, but your actual voice. I hope you remember that only fighting with a pen as your sword and paper as your shield has never been enough for you.

I hope you have a family that loves you and that you love more than you could ever imagine.

I hope you never stop reading. I hope you never stop dreaming. I hope you never stop striving.

I wish you peace, love and mental and emotional fortitude.

Love,

Ravynn

 

 

Don’t Wait Until Tenure: A Journey of Hair, Self-Love and New Beginnings

By Angela Crumdy

On November 17th, 2018 my locs turn three years old. Yes, I plan on throwing a party or at least getting my hair done. It’s been a journey worth celebrating. Until this point, my relationship with my hair has ranged any where from indifferent to antagonistic. Growing up, I was teased for having ‘Oprah Winfrey’ hair. Hairstylists often described my mane as thick, coarse and one even likened doing my hair to “performing surgery.” I started getting relaxers in high school, but I was never really happy with that either—it was convenient, but my hair was always limp and lifeless. I went completely natural my junior year of college after spending three months in Cuba for a study abroad program. I was liberated from the ‘creamy crack’, but being a loose natural had it’s own set of challenges. For four years, I struggled to find the right products, tools and styles to suit my 4c hair. I poured over Curly Nikki blog forums and various YouTube channels like Napptural85 hoping that something would be the magic fix. I spent most of that time being frustrated with my hair and myself, and yet, I persisted.

When I began graduate school, there was very little time for me to fight my hair, balance a full course load, adjust to life in a new city, and, given my ever present imposter syndrome, try to figure out if I’d made the right decision to pursue a PhD in the first place. My hair looked just as frazzled as my brain, and it was not cute. As the only woman of color in my cohort, I was hyper-aware of my appearance and what my presence signified in the predominantly white space. Early on, I had the all too common experience of a white woman putting her hands in my hair “because she does it with all of her friends.” This, coupled with the fact that my nearly four year relationship was coming to an end, is what finally got me to start my loc journey. What else did I have to lose?

There was a running joke with a few friends of mine that we would loc our hair once we got tenure, but the graduate school experience was already taking so much out of me that I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it to that point or if I even wanted to. I felt numb, and I realized that, life was too short to put off something I truly desired for an uncertain future. Maybe in all that was ending for me, I needed something to remind me that new beginnings were possible. I needed something positive to look forward to. So, after doing a Yelp search, I walked into a salon in my Brooklyn neighborhood, and made an appointment. I distinctly remember the loctician telling me that my locs were going to look like worms, but at that point, things really couldn’t get any worse.

As I approach this three-year milestone, I really think of it as a testament to how far I’ve come professionally and personally. There were times when I didn’t know what my baby locs would evolve into as they grew much in the same way that I didn’t’ know what would be in store for me as I developed my research project. As my locs matured so did I, and now, I am about to embark on fully funded dissertation fieldwork on a project that I found extremely rewarding. I’m finally settling in to myself as a scholar, and this is the first time in my life that I can honestly say that I love my hair. I finally don’t feel like I’m fighting myself, which is important when I am constantly confronted with external forces that would prefer I pursue the life of the mind and leave my body behind. My hair is now an adequate expression of how I’ve come to understand myself as person, and I am extremely grateful for the journey—ugly phase and all. Cheers to three years and not waiting for tenure to begin taking steps to become the person I’ve always wanted to be.


Angela Crumdy picAngela Crumdy was raised in Charlotte, North Carolina and is currently a fifth-year doctoral student in anthropology at The Graduate Center, CUNY. She holds a B.A. in anthropology and Latin American & Caribbean Studies from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.  Her current dissertation research examines the experiences of Cuban women educators historically and during the country’s contemporary teacher shortage. In her free time, she enjoys salsa dancing, volunteering and blogging on her health and wellness site academicmuscle.com.