Category Archives: Coursework

The Aftermath and Other Victories

The semester did not end the way I was expecting.

I ended up having to just… stop. Abruptly. My mental health took a dip in the last weeks of the semester to the point where I was reading pages and retaining nothing, like holding water in cupped hands. I was so fatigued that getting out of bed felt like a battle and sitting through an entire three hour seminar seemed impossible. But I kept pushing and pushing and pushing until I ended up fainting in the library, then spending the rest of the day in the urgent care.

That evening as I sat sipping Gatorade and watching Runaways with my friend in my apartment living room, I knew that something had to give. So, I took stock. At that point, I had already turned in two papers and only had project left– albeit with extensive suggestions for edits. Even though I had until the end of the week to finish it, I just turned it in with maybe half of the edits done, with an explanation to my professor that my health simply took a turn and if I pushed myself anymore, I was likely going to make myself quite sick.

So, I stopped.

Thus far, I have spent most of the break trying to relax and not doing it successfully. Between trying to convince my anxiety to give me a break since the semester is over and spending part of the holidays in the hospital behind my grandmother who came down with the flu, I have yet to feel fully relaxed. Plus, now the worry is my grades (only one is in: an A in Reflections of the African Diaspora.)

In spite of my never ceasing worries and generally rough year (I had to take a brief medical pause from school and my mother was hospitalized for nearly two weeks, plus I had to spend most of the summer writing my Master’s thesis), on this the last day of the year, I did want to spend a little time reflecting on the amazing things that did happen this year:

  1. I presented my original research paper at my first academic conference (Southern American Studies Association Conference) in March.
  2. I became a HASTAC scholar. (Class of 2017-2019!)
  3. I wrote and successfully defended my Master’s thesis!
  4. I curated a small art exhibit at the Lemon Project Symposium in March.
  5. I helped Ari with her Branch Out Trip last January for the Lemon Project. (I get to teach my own this in less than two weeks!)
  6. I successfully finished an entire year of apprenticing at Omohundro.
  7. I attended the Slavery conference at UVA and live tweeted the entire thing.
  8. I attended the Race, Memory and Digital Humanities conference at William and Mary, and my review of the event has been circulating all over the internet ever since.
  9. I’ve been growing Black Girl Does Grad School quite successfully all year.

Plus I did a few personal, life altering things as well:

  1. I did the big chop: I cut off all the relaxed hair until there was nothing left but my natural kinks and curls.
  2. I got new wrist tattoos. They read: I am deliberate and afraid of nothing. When I was a fourth year at UVA, I was recognized by a secret society and the honorees all had personalized quotes atop our letters. Mine was this quote and I never quite got over the fact that this was how someone else in this world viewed me. I wanted to see myself the same way, so I got tattoos to remind myself that I am deliberate and afraid of nothing. 
  3. I found out some new things about my mental health and have been fighting valiantly ever since.
  4. I started to keep a bullet journal.

I’m grateful for the success that I did have and, admittedly, for the failures as well. It’s the only stepping stones to something much greater. I believe that.

In the spirit of attempting to rest my soul, I’m going to step away from Black Girl Does Grad School for a few weeks. I’m going to be back and ready to work in January though. In the meantime, I think you can look forward to a few guest posts. But for now, thank you, dear reader, for coming with me this far. I hope you’ll travel a little further down this road with me.

 

Week 14, or Believing in the Path

A friend called me yesterday and wanted advice about grad school– finding programs, applying, doing the work, staying sane, etc.

A part of me thought, I am probably the least qualified person to give him any advice, and another part thought, This is probably a good moment to think critically about my grad school experience so far. It was a bad moment to ask me because this past week I’ve been walking around with my disdain for grad school coming to a boil. I contemplated quitting. I was told by a different friend that if one of us quits, both of us quit– and she’s not quitting.

If we’re being real, a little bit of everything is getting to me. I’m lonely; I feel isolated in my pursuits; and I have a nagging feeling that at least one of my professors thinks I don’t know what’s going on. There’s a part of me that wants to give into this nagging fear and accept that I don’t know, but there’s a fighting part that is disgusted with myself for believing myself to be stupid for even one moment. I find myself walking that strange tightrope in grad school of trying to speak up so as to be heard and not speak too much, because speaking too much can come off as self-indulgent and not speaking seems to imply ignorance. Still, I want to make a space for myself, I want to be heard, I want to be seen, almost as much as I want to just be still and listen because there’s so much I have to learn.

My friend then asked me for a general piece of advice about grad school. After a beat, I told him to know when to sit down. Know when to get off your soapbox and listen. Keep your ears and mind wide open. But you also have to know how to stand up for yourself. Know when to fight back, know when to lay down your arms. Fight the good fight, but protect your energy. My dwindling energy tells me I’m not taking my own advice. I’m fighting, but not protecting myself. Despite having been worthy of admission, I still feel like I’m fighting to prove that I belong in this Academic space.

After an hour long conversation which explored every way I felt hindered, I started to feel a weight settle on my soul. If I was this unhappy, I had to ask myself– why am I still here? Why am I still doing this?

Ultimately, my answer is the same as it’s always been: I want to be a Black professor. I want undergraduates to have more Black professors. I want Black people to represented in the Academy. I want to be proof that you can be whatever you want to be. I never got my 40 acres and a mule, so I’ll happily take my free education from the state of Virginia instead, an education that worked hard for. I want to teach. In my mind, very few things are more political than helping shape young minds. And I don’t want to teach my students to regurgitate what I’ve taught them– I want to teach them to think critically and for themselves, so they can make the final call on what to take with them when they leave my class. I never want to stop learning– I have too many questions. I love the idea of getting to spend my life in a career where I will be constantly inspired to explore intellectually– and to write about the process and results.

I’m still doing this because I believe this path was meant for me.

Sometimes, I think I just need to remind myself of that.

Grad School 1 – Leah 1, Part One

These last few weeks of Grad School have been…. challenging. I had a few projects that required more time than I dedicated and unfortunately, I paid for it. Luckily, we can resubmit assignments in this course (awesome!!!) so once I took the time to get it together, I exceeded requirements *insert know the girl emoji.*

Projects 4 and 5 were the worst assignments. The first was an excel project and although l am pretty moderate with excel, this assignment was definitely doing too much. The overall goal was to do a quantitative analysis – meaning gathering or recognizing data, performing mathematical calculations and interpreting what the numerical values meant. After totaling data, it had to be graphed, then analyzed, then manipulated. Finally, we had to write a summary, about 1 page long about what all the data meant. My professor did give us the data, so it was not hard to gather, but interpreting the data was a struggle. I scored a “meets performance requirements” aka a B and gave myself a pat on the back.

While I thought Project 5 would be easier, I wasn’t completely wrong and wasn’t completely right so you do the math, lol.  It was a paper, which is more my forte so I thought it wouldn’t take me long. The paper was a critical thinking assignment. We were asked to examine a case study  and decide what the company should do regarding the incident. At first glance, I thought it would be simple, but didn’t take into account how long it would take to evaluate the case. Getting started with this paper was the hardest part. So, after brainstorming and scratching it out ideas for about 2 hours, I decided to take a break. At the same time, my Dad called and I saw it as an opportunity to use his analytical mathematical skills for help. I emailed him the case study and within minutes, he had pretty much analyzed the whole case. I was amazed at how he was able help so quickly when I was stumped for awhile. In a matter of hours, I wrote the paper, edited the paper, sent it to both parents and a friend for revisions, and submitted it. Yesterday, I checked the grade and I passed with another “B”.

Shoutout to my Mom and Dad for helping a sister out!!!!

Now, we are beginning our final project and it’s a GROUP PROJECT. I am indifferent about group projects– if the class calls for it, okay, but if it doesn’t, that’s okay, too. But group projects online… that’s a new one. We have just begun week one.. and let’s just say, it’s been pretty productive, but also pretty interesting. The project is due mid-December and afterwards, I will have officially completed my first semester of grad school *insert happy dance.*

Stay Tuned… The Game Ain’t Over Yet!