It’s a small, simple thing, but I just had to share. Dr. Awesome gave me a fist bump today!
We were talking before lecture (I’m his TA), and he saw my “coffee cup” and stated that I clearly had my coffee as fuel. I said “Nope, it’s hot chocolate, I don’t drink coffee.”
To which he replied, “I don’t either!” and gave me a fist bump.
It’s the little things.
Today was a very abnormal day. Instead of having class, I had an on-campus conference to attend. The Journalism department hosted a really great event on political communication (which is right up my alley). We even had a professor from the department presenting late in the day. An even bigger surprise was that a professor from a really great university in a neighboring state was closing out the conference.
This is simply not just any professor. This guy is a badass in his own right. He used to teach at my university but went on to greener pastures. He has been published numerous times, and he knows my undergrad advisor, mentor, friend. They publish a lot together. They do a lot of projects together, and now I met him. I met this really great guy. At first I was sad because it seemed like he didn’t give 2 craps about meeting me (despite my saying that I was a student of ____). Here I was – hoping to make a connection that may lead to research glory, but it didn’t seem like it was meant to be.
Apparently at some point during that beautiful 9 hour long conference, he had inquired about me to another professor in the department (one I don’t know well because she has been called up on high (administration)). She admitted that she didn’t know me very well but that she has heard great things about me. This was enough.
Following the conference, I found myself in the company of him, the chair of the department, the graduate chair, and a couple professors. We were chit-chatting. The visiting professor asked me about my interests and whether or not I knew R (the statistical programming language/software) and I was able to say yes. I told him that I had been well trained and was interested in political communication.
I was then asked by the chair of the department to go out to dinner with everyone. I said that I could but that it wasn’t necessary to extend the offer because I felt like I would be intruding. He dismissed my concern and we all went to dinner. We went to a fancy restaurant. I ordered $15 chicken (which yes, I realize isnt all that fancy but in this state and at grad student pay, that’s expensive). It was simply delicious and the most amazing thing I have ever eaten. We had great conversation and laughed. It was fantastic to be around these people. I felt like I belonged.
I was asked to keep in touch with the visiting professor as we parted ways. I hope that this is the beginning of a fruitful relationship that yields research glory. In any event, I went out with professors as the lone grad student who was invited. I AM A BIG BEAR!
Often, I feel the weight of being a minority in the department – not a racial or gender minority, but as one belonging to the small number of parents who are trying to get PhD’s. Being a parent and a PhD student are very trying things, but both together is a recipe for guilt beyond belief. I didn’t realize until today that 32 percent of the faculty in my department is female. Of these women, only two have children. I could be wrong in that because I do not know some of them well and they may not make it known that they have children, but I do know that a majority of the women with PhDs do not have children. It is not my intent to say that I think they should. I respect these women for the choices they have made. It just illustrates the level of the loneliness I sometimes feel – like I am the only one walking down this long road.
Tonight, one of my professors relayed an experience from his first couple years as a PhD student and father of two. He related a time where he felt like a failure, like the didn’t belong in the program. He felt that he would never get his PhD and that he wasn’t good enough or smart enough. He wasn’t used to failing at anything, but one moment shook him. He came home and as his two year old daughter ran to hug him, he started to sob into her. He didn’t want anyone else to know of his pain but in that moment, he shared it with one of the people who loved him unconditionally and did not judge him.
I have done that. My children have strengthened me in my weak moments.
Tonight, I am not alone.