No one else had stopped, it was too dark and only I had seen him bounce from the concrete median over to hit the overpass bridge supports. He was tucked back beside the bridge. His car had no lights, no engine and yet the windshield wipers kept going even with the front third of the car gone.
My mind wandered as I waited for what seemed forever for the paramedics. As it does often, I thought about my dear readers still climbing to acquire the doctorate. Surprises happen in life just as they had that morning. A large blessing was that the volunteer fire personnel arrived in about 10 minutes. I wondered if the engine had been pushed back into where the driver’s legs were located. I did not want him to lift the deflated airbags covering his lap until well trained experts were there.
When sudden problems come upon you (and they will) having supports is very important to each of you. Perhaps that is why we cover this so much and even my editorial crew agrees it needs to be covered often since it sneaks up on the doctoral student. Professors see end stage doctoral students narrowing their field of vision at school and in life. Many become sullen, insular and resistant. But if you ask them about it, they pull on a confident demeanor that is paper thin and fools no one.
Everything becomes about the degree and if they fail at the degree students can fall apart. Several past students talked about the degree becoming them, it was who they were in their own mind. So much of their sense of self is tied to the degree process they lose perspective. We need to constantly break that pattern up so you do not become your degree. Instead your degree work adds to who you are and what you can do.
Even if you drop out of the program you come out as one heck of a smart person who has insights and advanced training that will take you to new heights. Let’s say you make it through the degree process and complete the two six hour exams, complete both internships and all your course work; then you lose it on the dissertation and drop out. Now you go into a job interview and you come to a fork in your life’s highway. Do you say to yourself, as you sit in the interview, that you are a loser and cringe when asked questions or do you realize that you are one of the most highly trained experts in your field? You have more training in your area than almost anyone in the country. You have gleaned insights from lectures, books, videos and research articles. You can answer questions, solve problems and find solutions from a wide variety of sources. But that does you no good if your self concept is shattered because you could not finish the doctorate. You can easily fail that interview and many others as you give off the wrong vibe about yourself.
So each article is designed to make you reflect upon how you are thinking as you move forward. We try to help you prepare for the sudden problems. We will continue to remind you that a strong support team such as family, friends, fellow students and co-workers will keep you sane and strong.
So do you open yourself up to the other doctoral students or are you the lone ranger? You need others for sudden problems since it throws off your thinking. At the accident in pitch dark, I left all three of my flashlights in the car and my jumbo first aid kit. All of my first responder training had disappeared despite all the classes my employer had sent me to on dealing with first aid, bomb detection and crisis response behaviors. In my case, within ten minutes experts showed up with first aid training, lights and even a big fire truck. In your case friends, family and coworkers will help you stay sane and on track. So reach out to others and do not be that sullen, spooky and unapproachable doctoral student sitting at the back of the room. Connect and prepare so when sudden problems hit you, there will be help and support around you.
See to your goals,
National Doctoral Student Association