The Long Good-bye

As I reflect on the first half of the year, I’m increasingly aware of the increasingly infrequent nature of my blog post updates here. Last year, it made sense: the stress of the pandemic (which is not over, by the way) had everyone off their game. Even this past semester I could contribute my sporadic posting to my investment in my class. Still, as I adjusted to my reality, I simply couldn’t get back into the swing of my weekly posting habit that had characterized this blog since I started it almost five years ago.

But truths are truths, I think, and here’s one that’s bittersweet: I’m outgrowing Black Girl Does Grad School.

BGDGS has been my way of “speak myself into existence,” in the words of Jessica Marie Johnson. It was me making sense of a world whose rules and infrastructures I didn’t yet know or understand and yet was expected to make my way in. In a lot of ways, the start to my journey into academia reminds me now of finding myself in France as a twenty-one year old: I knew French in theory, but the shock being dropped down into a country where I only understood every fifth word sometimes and overwhelmed by how different things were, but still expected to find your way to the hotel by yourself, almost short-circuited my brain. The feeling was not unlike how I’d felt in early grad seminars—only understanding half the words and having to learn unspoken cultural norms simply by doing.

But also like my time studying abroad, as time went on, the more I began to find myself in a rhythm. I could find my way from the hotel to class, to my favorite cafes and restaurants…I didn’t always completely understand every word that was spoken to me, but I increasingly was able to get the gist and respond accordingly.

That’s been me in graduate school; every experience help a new piece of cultural knowledge fall into place, making each new thing a little easier to manage. I’ve always used BGDGS as a crutch, to help me fill in the rest of the blanks…but…I guess I don’t need it as much anymore.

In France, I was able to make my way through a world that wasn’t mine but that I found things I loved in. And then, as classes ended, I was reminded that I was only a visitor in this world that I had learned to navigate and love…and that soon, it would be time to leave.

I feel now, as I did then: a little disconcerted that this chapter of my life is almost over, relieved to leave, and also…grateful for all that it taught me.

This isn’t the good-bye; more like the beginning of the end. I still have time. I still have a pretty sizable list of things to finish, least of all finishing up and defending my dissertation. And I’m going to want to write about these things. But this is it, what I’ve been working towards. The finish line is a ways off, but in sight. After several years, I get the sense that these last few months will fly by.

And then it will be time for the good-bye.

But at this moment, I’m realizing that most of the blog posts that come after today will likely be the last of their kind. The last dissertation check-ins, the last reading updates, the last gratitude posts…This is the beginning of the end of an era.

BGDGS has gotten me through many a tough moment. It’s given me space to reflect, and helped me build a flourishing community of folks outside of my institution who are invested in seeing me succeed. It’s given me the tools to ask for help and help others. It’s been a lifeline.

But as I start transitioning out of this “pot” and into a new one, I know that this is one piece of my life that will stay in this chapter. BGDGS is where I learned to be a writer and what it means to have an audience; nothing will ever change that.

So wherever I go next, whatever I write next, this will always be where it all started.