13 April 2014

PhD etc.

In September, I started a PhD program at the University of Washington here in Seattle. Since then, I've made it through two quarters and it looks like about 10 months since my last post. A lot has changed, and continues to daily. I find myself constantly reflecting upon why I am where I am, where Michael and I are "headed" in the longer term (house, kids, etc.) and how it all fits together. Of course, none of these questions or musings can be resolved simply, and require patience and perseverance. (Duh.) In academia, your motives, goals and projects are constantly brought into question or call for a defense. It can get overwhelming very quickly, and often does. The trick is learning how to literally fake it 'til you make it, and to work in the meantime to find your way so that eventually you really are making it!

One huge difference in this program is the fact that I am essentially my own cohort. A strange concept, and one that I didn't really consider until partway through my first quarter, when I really began to feel the weight of all the newness--new colleagues, new professors, a new student body, a new book, a new class to teach. It was a LOT of new! Someone at that point--I believe a good friend also in academia, and whose advice has been invaluable to me ever since we both embarked on this journey--asked me, "Well, who else is in your cohort? Can you talk these issues over with them?" Nope, no can do. Of course, as a TA there are many people that I talk to often about those struggles. However, in general and as far as the entire process goes, I am really the only one on my particular track at this particular point. Luckily, I have since made a wonderful friendship with another PhD candidate who is really only one year (give or take) ahead of me. We both came in with MA's from other schools and are therefore having to jump through extra hoops to "prove ourselves". Both of our husbands have habits we wish they'd get rid of, and get along very well. We both enjoy cooking, eating, and just generally shooting the breeze when we get a free few minutes. It has been really refreshing and it's always nice to know there's someone who understands most aspects of a certain struggle. This quarter, Céline and I are in both of the same classes and have both been accepted into a certificate program for a Second Language Pedagogy Teaching track, so that's also exciting.

When I look at the big picture (finishing coursework and the certificate this year/next, dissertation the next two years after that, house, kids, ????), it's easy to just fa-reak OUT. However, lately I have been reminded of the intentional nature of God. He would not have put me in the department at UW if there weren't other purposes for me there. I'm not sure yet which purposes are the ones that matter most to Him, but I trust that whether it is the simple task of completing the degree or just sharing my views with everyone, it will fall into place. Michael and I have begun attending a new church in Greenlake that we both really enjoy and glean a lot from. Some of my close friends from high school also are regular attenders, so it has been fun to spend time together with them as couples, and we have a great time!

This leads me to the thing that I have recently realized about myself: I have unfinished grief-business that is almost 15 years old. My godfather, Dave's, death in 2000 threw my 13 year-old self didn't know how to deal, and really didn't. Everything around me changed in just a few months it seemed. Everything since changed or has been somehow impacted, also. However, I spend so much time focusing on the "positives" that came out of the tragedy (mostly relationships that were strengthened, changed, or started as a result of Dave's passing) distracted me until now from some important things that I needed to at the very least acknowledge. One of these was that I became sensitive to getting close to people. I have always had a lot of friends, but have never really had a best friend. Many of my friends now have been close friends for a long time, but I've also allowed other friendships to essentially fall by the wayside. Now as I look back, I realize that in those relationships, when things got hard, I kind of just shut down; I didn't want to deal with the pain of a monumental "death" of the relationship, so I just let it fade out. I'm grateful that the majority of those relationships remain intact, even if they aren't how I might have wanted them to stay. God has blessed me with people in all seasons of my life, but I believe that I have sometimes left undone the tasks He wants us to do to keep those relationships--the ones that create a community around us. This saddens me greatly. However, I can't go back and so am trying to make a conscious effort moving forward to avoid leaving these things undone in laziness.

Another element that is left over from Dave's death is doing the dishes. Yes, you read that right. If you know me or have been around Michael and I in the past year, you will know how big of a role this issue has played in our day-to-day recently. I know it's been a mystery to him, but the fact is that it was also a mystery to me: why was I so dang hung up on this chore? Sure, we don't have a dishwasher here in our apartment, it's tiny, and the dishes seem to pile up the second you finish doing them. Having said that, is it really a life or death moment?? Well, kind of. In the week and a half before Dave's death, there were a bunch of us that were pretty cooped up in one house, and there wasn't much to do. People eat, and dishes accumulate. So, I did the dishes because it was really one of the only things that I could do. I really think that ever since I have hung more importance on that task than it could ever possibly take--in any relationship. Now, I try to leave the dishes alone every once in a while. I am grateful that I live in a home with two cats and a husband who are all very alive, and I know that despite this, you never know when your time might come. I want to take advantage of the little free time that I have. And so I leave the dishes or do them early in the morning when I'm up getting ready before anyone else.

A few photos from the past few months:
Simone & I have known each other since we were petites filles at the French American School. Her encouragement and support in all things academic has been invaluable, and I treasure our friendship!

Christmas was wonderful; we got to be with both families and didn't have to fly across the country to do so. It marked the last holiday we hadn't gotten to since our move back to the PNW--it's officially been a year!

The weekend before my birthday, we went out to Sequim to visit Michael's dear cousins, Christopher & Wanda. Of course, we forgot to snap any photos of them...so we'll just have to go back and visit again. (It was windy while we were there!)

My brother-in-law, Joel, and his band Hidden History played their first live show in Seattle in March. Here are the Burgess sisters (Joel's wife, Ella, his sister, Crystal, and myself) at the show.

Michael and I met up with some of my second cousins in Everett for dinner. Lisa & Jodie are some fun ladies, and we're looking forward to more times together soon :)

Michael, Dennis & Joe also had a good time catching up. As you can see, Michael's beard is reaching monumental proportions...


  1. As Brenda says to me: "way to dig deep!" Examining some of the big events in your life can really affect you in ways you don't even know, so revealing those can bring great healing and change in the process.

    1. Thanks! Good to hear from someone who's been on a path like this has been told :) Every nugget of information helps!