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My Doctoral Identity

A Crisis of Purpose, Passion, and Title

By VNessa ErlenePublished 5 months ago 3 min read
My Doctoral Identity
Photo by Jonathan Singer on Unsplash

I must first speak of the identity crisis I suffered in the process of becoming a doctoral learner before you can completely understand why I experienced my changed identity as I did.

I have two master's degrees from Grand Canyon University. The first is in the field of elementary education and the second is curriculum and instruction. I started the second degree to postpone my doctoral journey.

I realize now that this was because of my fear of failure.

Luckily for me, my academic addiction made it impossible to not pursue my doctoral degree upon the completion of my last master's degree.

I was an elementary school teacher and a single parent of my three children who remained at home, my two oldest were living on their own, when I started my academic career in 2013 at Grand Canyon University.

My work week averaged about sixty hours, including the commute, and my coursework added another twenty to thirty hours to this.

I knew that with the addition of two grandchildren into my home I could not continue this schedule. I made the conscious choice to stop teaching for one to two years when I started my doctoral journey. This would allow me to focus entirely on my postgraduate studies with limited interruptions from the outside world.

I did not realize that when one has been working as fast and furious as I had been for the past five years, a complete break from this would be a complete break from reality.

I help at my family’s furniture store in the afternoons. I can always sit at the most comfortable dining room table with my research papers, notebooks, and reading glasses. When customers come to the store and start a conversation, the topic always leads to what I do, as in my occupation. I replied every time without hesitation that I was a teacher, after which I would have to explain why I was not in a classroom teaching.

One of my children brought it to my attention one day that I didn’t teach school anymore. I could not think of a reply, and the full realization set in that I was not a teacher anymore. I thought about this horrible fact for weeks and realized I was a doctoral student, a mother, and a grandmother, and this was more than enough.

Soon after I came to this realization I had the pleasure of talking to a lovely woman from Australia. When she asked the question of what I did for the first time with no hesitation I told her I was working on my Ph.D. to further my research on the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome. She was a psychologist, and our conversation lasted for over an hour.

I filled my cheery Arizona room with a considerable desk and bookshelves the following weekend. I have since immersed myself in the reality that I am a doctoral researcher who hopes to change the future for children born with fetal alcohol exposure.

I am so blessed that I was able to take my passion and reshape my identity, therefore, finding my true purpose in life.

Update: I am in my final year of the doctoral program. I want to quit so badly, but I've come so far! I am working again, but I am teaching online this time, and I love my job. Studying and researching have become my new "hobby." When people ask me what I do, I am always inclined to tell them, "Anything I want!" That uncertain woman is gone, and a very determined, outspoken individual stands in her place.


About the Creator

VNessa Erlene

A Ph.D. student and Celtic Priestess who is an explorer of knowledge, spirituality, and political incorrectness. Your voice and knowledge is your power!

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