My mom died before seeing me graduate with my PhD. It was the single most defining moment in my journey to becoming Dr. Farley. I began my program with so much enthusiasm and excitement to be the first “doctor” in my family. My mother was ecstatic and bragged to everyone. Despite the immense impostor syndrome feelings I had throughout my program, I forged ahead because my accomplishments were not just my own. I shared them with my family, and most importantly, with my mom.
When people tell you getting your PhD can be a lonely path, especially when you are in the dissertation phase, I never truly understood until my mom passed. I was in the 4th year of my studies, with a new job in Florida, and was completing my dissertation from a distance. On October 7, 2014, my personal world shifted. Nothing else mattered except the fact that my mom was no longer on this earth, living and breathing, and being a source of encouragement and support.
So now what? This was the question to myself. She was no longer here, who did I have to make proud? Why did I even need to finish this degree? How could I finish this degree? My world crumbled and this degree meant nothing. The most important person was no longer there to cheer me on. So, I froze. I was frozen in grief, in despair, in depression, and guilt for being a procrastinator and not finishing earlier that year when she could have enjoyed my accomplishment. I gave up and did not look at my proposal. Not writing anything, I only managed to stay continuously enrolled.
How do you focus on something that is seemingly so miniscule such as another degree, when you have just experienced a personal tragedy? One day, one hour, and sometimes one minute at a time. For me, it was through seeking help. At a standstill, I couldn’t figure out how to move forward with my dissertation, so I asked for help. I needed a pair of fresh eyes to look at my proposal because, to me, it was never good enough. Those fresh eyes told me that not only was my proposal good enough, but so was I, and I could do this.
I know that the journey to obtaining your doctorate is not easy, and especially for persons of color attending PWIs. But I want to encourage others to not be afraid to ask for help. Life happens…and it can really suck. But do not let that temporary setback cause a permanent failure. You can do this.
This post is part of our #SADocsofColor series for March. The journey towards obtaining a doctorate degree is long and arduous. This series highlights the stories of those on that journey that identify as men and women of color; stories which aren’t always told and stories that are important.