I shouldn’t care

But I do.

I’ve continued reflecting on my recent trip home to see my family.  As I mentioned in a post from the weekend, it wasn’t an easy visit mostly because of heath issues my mom and my brother are facing.

But there were other issues as well.  I don’t really feel like my family of origin understands me.  I know many people feel that way and over the years I’ve come to accept that they think I’m just, well, crazy.  I can live with that.  Most days.

I am not sure why I am so sensitive to this right now but I can’t help but balk at a short discussion I had with my brother.  We were at dinner and I mentioned that I was graduating from the Ph.D. program this spring.  My brother’s girlfriend said, “Oh we thought you were going to be a professional student!”

And my brother said, “You just took the words right out of my mouth!”  Then he laughed.

It’s difficult enough getting a Ph.D., and it’s not a road I’d go down again if I had the choice.  But the thing is I *am* a professional student.  Because what that means is that I am working on making teaching and research my profession while jumping through the hoops that are set up for me to finish the doctorate.

All through the Ph.D. program I’ve had three part time jobs.  I’ve taught three courses a year at my university, I’ve been working on my research, and I’ve taught online for a community college.  On average, I’ve taught over 100 students a semester.  Many of the other “professional students” in my cohort maybe teach 25.  What does that boil down to?  I’ve been working my ass off.

It’s a delicate balancing act, keeping up with the demands of my teaching and research at the same time.  I’ve managed it pretty well I think, not letting the days when I wanted to throw the towel in get me down too bad and working on the dissertation even when I wasn’t 100% sure what I was doing or what I wanted to say.

So it’s a particular slap in the face to have my status as a professional student be made a joke.  I kick myself now because I didn’t say anything at the time; I was somewhat dumbfounded when I realized that they were both, essentially, looking down on me and judging me, making fun of some difficult choices I’ve made.  I don’t believe the Ph.D. makes me smarter than anyone else; it is simply a road I chose to wander down and hoops I’ve chosen to jump through.  It does, however, rank me in a very small population. According to the 2000 census, less than 1% of the U.S. population holds a doctorate like the one I’m finishing this year (a research based degree, not counting medical doctors or dentists).

So no, I really shouldn’t care that my brother and his girlfriend think it’s a joke, especially since I know it takes most people an average of five years to complete a Ph.D.  What’s that, you say?  How long has it taken me?  This is my fifth year, and I’m on track to finish.  Well, I would be if I was spending this time working on the dissertation and not writing about my annoying family.



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