One Last Time

There were so many times I could have written since December: stories I could tell from the job market, the struggles of finishing a dissertation, when my defense date was scheduled, when I submitted my defense draft to my committee… These were all things I would have wanted to know about as a first year Ph.D. student, but the truth is, the last year I have completely fried. So tomorrow, after I defend my dissertation, all I want to do is rest.

If you’re reading this, you likely know that the academic job market is brutal. Search committees that ghost you or rough interviews, spending weeks on huge application packages only to be passed over in the first round and every plot twist you couldn’t imagine. I didn’t even apply to as many jobs as most of my peers did, and I still came out on the other side battered and exhausted from the experience, while still trying to find the energy to wrap up my project.

As far as the defense goes, most people on my committee, my friends, other scholars have assured me that this shouldn’t be the bad part. I understand when they all tell me that this presentation and conversation should be an opportunity for you to show off the work you’ve done for the last several years, and get some guidance on areas for growth for the book project. I know that. I also know that I have a great committee, many of them folks I’ve worked with throughout my graduate school journey.

And yet.

My brain has been wracking my body with horrible anxiety symptoms for weeks. Nearly every morning as I have my coffee, my brain cycles through every possible thing that could go wrong for my defense, adding a couple new and terrifying possibilities each day. I have imagined tech difficulties, rescheduling dilemmas, committee members missing the meeting, having to get forms resigned, someone finding a piece of evidence that unravels the whole project, not being passed…I think about it during the day and dream about it at night. So maybe I know that it will be fine, but anxiety is skilled at wrecking any possibility of peace.

It all comes down to tomorrow: after coursework, exams, and writing this monstrosity of a project over six years, I will stand at the finish line.

It’s amazing and, in some ways, unbelievable.

Most strikingly, it occurs to me that this blog truly will be ending for real soon. Black Girl Does Grad School will be the project that was active from 2016-2022, the time I spent on my Ph.D. This blog has gone through so many changes. It went from a space that I came to decompress after every week of grad school, to a place I offered others to share their experiences, to something of a magazine, complete with columnists and editors in addition to the writing I was doing. The pandemic slowed everything down, but I think, as I have written before, I was already starting to move away from BGDGS, because I didn’t need it as much.

But this blog has connected me with people who have become lifelong friends and diehard supporters, offered refuge to students needing a place to reflect on their experiences, and most importantly, instilled confidence in myself as a writer and thinker when it was hard to get that consistently in school.

I wouldn’t be half the writer, thinker or scholar I am today if I hadn’t sat down in August 2016 and decided to create this corner of the internet for myself. So I will be forever grateful to my precious site.

And to you, dear readers, who have been with me all this time: thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

And tomorrow, I hope to be able to experience the milestone every Ph.D. student dreams of, and to share that with all of you here, one last time.