September 22, 2016

Moving Beyond Immediacy

Happy Thursday! Yes, it is another end of the week, and today, I am thinking about my colleagues who are sitting their comprehensive exams at Regent University. It was 8 months ago when I was over at ACU, in the same boat, in the same high-intensity stress filled situation. Oh my goodness -- how time sure does fly! Now, I am writing my dissertation, and I am so close to graduating with my PhD. It has been such an amazing ride, the time of my life, and I stand in awe of God for His goodness and His grace to enable me to accomplish this dream.

I say, "this dream," because in truth, I believe that getting my PhD was His dream to start, and that He put that dream into my heart way back in 1992 when I was about to finish my undergraduate studies at San Jose State University. I can still remember the day when my professor, Dr. Olcott, said to me, "Carol, you should think about getting your PhD." I thought she was joking, of course, but all these years later, I still think fondly about the way she encouraged me to pursue my interests and my intellectual curiosity for the humanities. I do believe it was "kismet," in some ways, and I credit much of my undergraduate study for preparing me for graduate school -- despite the long delay of 17 years -- between degrees. My education at SJSU was intense, and my classes in the Humanities department were thorough and pushed academic writing and critical analysis to an extreme. I loved my program, and I think now how blessed I was to have studied Humanities when I did. Truthfully, my worldview shifted after that program, and my study was foundational for my later graduate study in English and Communication. I am right where I belong, thanks in part, to my undergraduate study, my professors at SJSU, and of course, my Lord, who gave me the permission, the provision, and the protection to study this particular degree. Selah!

Today, then, is a good day to remember the long journey, the long road, that I have taken to get to this point and place in time. I have traveled far from where I started, and the road ahead of me seems unending at times. Yet, I know that the path will surely end, and that at some point "down the road," I will arrive at my destination. God be praised, I will arrive! Until then, I remain focused. I stay fixed, firmly fixed, and I remain dedicated to the pursuit, to the purpose, and to the potential outcome that awaits my performance and my achievement. God is good, so very good to me, and I believe -- no, I KNOW -- He has a great plan for my life. I am convinced of it. I am absolutely convinced that the path that I am on, while rocky and uneven at times, is the path I am supposed to be on. I am right where I belong, and as such, I am in this sweet, wonderful, and "oh so" good place. I believe it. I feel it. I know it.

The New "Me!"

I titled this section of this post, "The New Me!" because once again, I am ready to begin the process of becoming "brand new." I know it sounds strange, but over the course of my life, I have cycled through several reinventions of me -- of my personality, my style, my growth, my development. As I have searched for meaning -- attempted to make sense of my life, to understand my vulnerabilities and my weaknesses -- I have spent a lot of time evaluating my past. I have spent time reviewing, revisiting, and yes, even re-envisioning my past experiences in order to understand better my motivations, my perceptions, and my assumptions so that I can improve my life. My desire is not to improve only in tangible ways (that is always the focus), but also in ways that are "intangible" (or not readily apparent). I want to be the best I can be, and by that, I mean simply to become the best person I can be given my limitations (fixed limits -- age, abilities, etc.). In many ways, I simply want to arrive at my destination in the best shape possible. I want to look good, feel good, and I want to possess a keen mind, a clear head, and be empowered to make decisions, choices, with mental focus and determination. In order to accomplish that aim, I must take inventory of my current status, and then decide what, if anything, must be changed, added or eliminated to ensure my success.

Right now, my overall focus has been on finishing my education and securing a solid teaching position (somewhere). I have made this pursuit my number one and number two goal.  In truth, goal number one is paramount to everything else. I mean, without my PhD, that secure position will not be possible. As such, all my effort has been pushed toward that end. I have to graduate. I have to finish. I am so close, and praise be to God, in time, I will be done (His will be done!) I have to remind myself daily that where I am today, teaching adjunct at several schools is simply part-and-parcel to the process. I have to gain experience, and while I would love a full-time job for security and provision, I simply know that what I have is good. It is enough, and praise God, it will be enough until He determines otherwise.

Since I have my ducks aligned in a row right now, and my goals are clearly in focus, the plans I have made seem to be producing good results and moving me closer and closer toward that end. I have been steady, stalwart, and now I am starting to see the goal posts in the near distance. I am almost there, almost to the pinnacle of success, to that point where I can say, "I did it! I am done!" Until then, however, I have to remain steady, yes -- steady. I have to finish this course, check off all the little check boxes that remain on my grand "to do" list.

My goals are in view, and the steps -- the plans and procedures -- needed to accomplish them are clearly designed and functioning well. Now, I must decide what to do next -- as in -- what to do AFTER I achieve my goals. My mind races through a wide-range of options, but so far, nothing has really "stuck" with me. Part of me wants to rest, like really rest (like a long vacation rest!) Another part of me wants to keep on going, to achieve more, to pursue another major life goal. I am not sure what I will do, but for now, I am content to consider these options as possible next steps:
  • Return to school to pursue another degree
  • Settle into teaching and pursue scholarship
  • Start a ministry to help the church communicate more effectively the message of the Cross
I've blogged about returning to school before, and while I have secondary interests and desires, I am unsure whether I have it in me to tackle another Masters or PhD program. I am pretty well spent, but intellectually speaking, I enjoy school, I enjoy studying and learning at this level, so going back to school is a plausible option for me. Some aligned interests for study have included:
  • Linguistics (MA)
Of these interests, what seems possible for me is a second masters degree in linguistics or in socio or psycho-linguistics that would then lead into a PhD in that social science discipline. I can see me studying along these lines simply to facilitate my over-arching interest in communication. Literature, on the other hand, is always a passion of mine. I have my Masters in English Literature, and I always felt somewhat sad that I didn't pursue the PhD in Literature when I had the chance back in 1992. I could easily pick this up, especially now since I teach both composition and literature studies. I would need to find a program that was 100% online, and a program that would allow me to study either American or British literature in specific. For now, I am thinking about a degree program only for the benefit of continued intellectual study and to afford opportunities for scholarship.

I really like the idea of settling into teaching and producing scholarship. I mean, with my first article published, I am eager to start the next one (I have a bunch of ideas in my head). I have to finish my research, and frankly, it is a massive project that will take time. I hope to publish at least one study from my data, but after that, I want to tackle some other interests -- mostly -- language and literature or language and linguistics. I also have some interest in visual rhetoric, so that is a possibility too. I know that with a tenure track position, I will be required to pursue scholarship as a part of my contract. I can see myself producing articles, conducting studies, etc., that would serve to meet that requirement. I am just wondering if I have what it takes to do it on my own or if it would be better to take a program whereby I would be forced to do this level of work (KWIM?)

Lastly, I know the Lord intends for me to do ministry, and by "doing ministry," I mean to start a ministry where I use my PhD in Communication. Again, I am of the impression that this ministry is something that will come in time, so I don't feel the push to start it now. Rather, I think it will develop overtime, and then when I am ready to retire from teaching, it is something I will do full-time in my golden years. At the least, this is how I feel now.

So with this in mind, I would say that once I graduate, I am thinking that both (1) and (2) are likely scenarios for me. I will probably step aside and take some time to get into my new job (when I have one) before thinking about starting a degree program. More than likely, I will work on presenting my dissertation at a conference first, followed by submitting my research for publication (as an article). After that point, I would be in a better position to start looking for another degree program, and to decide whether I want to focus next on humanities or social science. Also, I need to consider the language requirements of English, and that means that I would need to pass two language exams in order to meet the criteria of the program (ugh!)

As I think about this idea of more school, one thing comes to mind, and that is how to pay for school. Yeah, always a big concern. I am thinking that if the Lord puts me in a good school for teaching -- perhaps -- they will have a program that would suit my needs. If so, I would probably get a tuition waiver or credit in order to enable me to go back to school without breaking the bank. The other idea is to find a school that follows the Oxford model like Regent does. I really like this approach to graduate studies. It works well for my style, and I like the emphasis on discussion rather than teaching rote memorization and regurgitation. Oh well...I've got time to think more about this in the coming year. For now, it is back to the business at hand -- dissertation and writing mode!

In Closing

As I think about all of this, I realize that before I can tackle tomorrow, I have to attend to this day. So, with that in mind, I close this post so I can focus on my dissertation and my graduation! LOL! I am thanking God for the rain (as it softly hits my window), and for the blessing of having this day off today. I am rested, feeling better (no headache), and generally in good shape for the next few weeks and months as I move toward the finish line. I pray for His grace and His mercy as I complete my tasks. I ask for His blessing over my finances as He moves to improve my situation and open doors for me to work full-time. Until then, I remain constant, fixed, and focused on what "must needs" done this good, good day. He is so good to me, so very good to me! Selah!

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