Thinking About the Ph.D

I adore being a student. This past Fall was my first not being a student since 2007, which was when I graduated with my bachelors. I love it. Learning is a hobby of mine. This is why I adore reading reading, and I never minded writing research papers. I love to learn. Love. It. Apparently, I don’t give off this vibe to my peers or profressors.

I mentioned in my last post about how my thesis chair snubbed Missy and I at dinner at the AWP conference. Well, the day before, we had met up: Missy, TC (thesis chair), and another professor from my thesis committee (Professor Nice and Friendly). We sat near the bar area and talked about life after grad school, books, and a bit of gossip.

Missy is currently in a Ph.D. program so of course Ph.Ding came up.

“So, One Mean,” TC began, “You’re not thinking of doing a Ph.D. are you?” She said this more as a statement, than as a question.

She continued, “Would that really be a great fit?”

I sat there stunned, wishing I had been born with wit. Wishing I had the ability to think quickly, to respond with something smart and that would sting. Wishing I had a zinger.

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe.” I said. How do  you respond to a comment like that? How do you respond to the suggestion that you’re clearly not good enough to even bother applying.

“Would you enjoy that?” She asked.

“I don’t know, maybe if it was a creative writing Ph.D.”


Hmph?????? Really? Hmph? Is it really that surprising that I would want a Ph.D.? I mean, Jesus I went into a program that was practically an M.A. combined with an M.F.A. I f*#king love to learn! Look at me, I’m a top notch nerd. Right?

So, after being deflated, Missy and I left to go explore D.C.

I kept hearing TC’s question run through my head. More than anything, I couldn’t get the tone of it out of my head. Am I not good enough to do a Ph.D.? Was I imagining TC’s patronizing tone? Did she mean it that way?

And then of course, I asked myself the age old question: Am I crazy?

I decided to ask Missy if I had misinterpreted TC’s tone?

“No, I heard it too.” She paused. “You? Hmph? a Ph.D.?”

We laughed and joked about for the duration of AWP, but I clearly am still struggling with this.

I’ve been lucky to have a supportive family and network of friends. I’ve never been told, I can’t do something, or that I shouldn’t try. Even though my parents have been rough on me, they’ve never once, suggested I don’t have the ability to do something. You can be anything when you grow up was and is not something new. The sky’s the limit. All that motivational crap. This is probably why I was so shocked when TC questioned my passion. And even more than my passion, she questioned my ability.

I’m not imagining this right?

Well, even if I am, this incident has definitely fueled a fire of inspiration in me. Never have I ever wanted to prove someone so very wrong. Maybe I won’t be getting a Ph.D., that doesn’t mean I can’t. I definitely will work even harder at that tenure track line of work. No one. No. One. Tells ME I can’t do something.

Who knows, maybe she was intentionally using reverse psychology on me because she knows I’m awesome.

Or she was just being a bitch.

Regardless, I’m fired up. Whose with me?! (Sorry, I was channeling that scene in Beauty and the Beast when Gaston gets all the villagers to go to castle to “Kill the Beast.” I’ll stop now.)

Still, I’m having a hard time getting over how demoralizing it is to have a mentor make such a suggestion. She was like my sponsor. I thought she was supposed to be supportive. Mentors and thesis chairs are supposed to be supportive, right?

FH tells me not to care about what she thinks or anyone else for that matter. This is why I’m marrying him. The boy has got my back. Still, my feelings have been hurt and now I have to get over it. Good thing, I can laugh and write about it.

Still, I’m not taking the Ph.D. off the table just because one person thinks I’m not good enough. F-that.

What do you think, am I overreacting? Crazy?

Well, maybe just answer the overreacting question…I think I already know the answer the am I crazy question.


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