For current government employees also pursuing Bachelors, Masters or PhDs! Also for newly graduated students, or those established that would like to mentor those in progress!
How Does Your Garden Grow?
June 8, 2009 at 7:41 am #73597
Laurie Y. CarrilloParticipant
How Does Your Garden Grow?
Tracy Steen, Ph.D.
Spring has arrived! And for many of us that seasonal change means it’s time to plant a garden. It doesn’t have to be a big garden. A few well-tended pots on the back patio or window ledge will suffice to satisfy the impulse to create and get things growing. But in order for a would-be gardener to qualify as such, he or she must tend the garden with passion, and in so doing the gardener and the ABD find common ground:
Gardening is an insatiable passion, like everything else to which a man gives his heart. -Karel Capek
Stay with me here–I haven’t taken on a twin assignment as editor of a gardening website (I would never qualify!), but I do recognize passion as the essential ingredient in all successful human endeavors. Could you substitute the words “working toward my Ph.D.” for the word “gardening” in the above quote? If not, it may be time to renew the passion.
Passion releases our energy and the will to succeed. It was passion that got you going as you began the long journey toward the doctorate. Without passion, your possibilities are significantly diminished, and even your successes are less joyful. So if your passion is flagging a bit, let the renewal begin!
As the garden grows, so does the gardener. -unknown
Renewal begins with a realistic assessment of what you have done and where you are going. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that in the ABD’s world, success is a series of small accomplishments, day by day. Celebrate them! The huge reward you are working toward is far down the road; it’s the small feats that will get you there. They are your ticket punches for the big show–you cannot get in without them. Appreciate your day-to-day efforts for the important accomplishments they are.
Equally important as remembering your accomplishments is forgetting your missteps. The ABD process is long, and it is inevitable that you will make some mistakes. (Even when you don’t know of one, your chair will likely find one for you!) When it happens, learn from your mistake and move on. Never let it discourage you. Everyone–and I do mean everyone–makes mistakes along the way.
And there is another important impetus to passion renewal:
One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides.
W. E. Johns, The Passing Show
Ah, yes…anticipation. Gardeners probably drool over colorful seed catalogs. We never did get a similar kick from colorless course syllabi, but if you find yourself day dreaming about the day you walk across the stage to receive your doctoral diploma, or perhaps a different day when someone respectfully addresses you as “Doctor,” don’t stop dreaming! Dreams fuel passion. They get us going and keep us going, as long as we back them up with action.
Henry David Thoreau noted that building castles in the air is a good thing as long as we put foundations under them. Well, that is what you have been doing, and it’s a great combination: Keep the dream alive to fuel the passion, but keep up the hard work as well, building a firm, well-grounded foundation.
Gardens are not made by sitting in the shade. -Rudyard Kipling
Every garden is a chore sometimes, but no real garden is nothing but a chore.
I chose the second quote above because I think the gardener’s thought reflects what many of us feel when our passion wanes a bit. We haven’t totally lost the passion at such times, but we definitely feel a lack of enthusiasm. Sitting down to work at the computer can then seem like a chore, yet it can’t be “nothing but a chore” because you have chosen to do it and would never relinquish your opportunity to advance your own objectives. As a person of passion, you choose to pursue the goal even when wearied by the pursuit.
There is no magic formula for making light of demanding work, but when you put in the needed hours and make progress, you begin to feel more relaxed and confident. Making dreams a reality requires a certain amount of drudgery, unfortunately, and that’s why it’s important to indulge yourself in dreaming those dreams, even as you do the heavy foundation work.
As you already know–if getting a Ph.D. were easy, everyone would have one.
And one more thing about renewing your passion–
“You may go into the field or down the lane, but don’t go into Mr. McGregor’s garden.” -(Peter Rabbit’s mother) Beatrix Potter
Peter Rabbit’s mother gave good advice. If you know the story (and I hope you do–it’s my childhood favorite), you know that Peter would have done well to hang out somewhere other than McGregor’s place.
The point here is that other people do make a difference in our lives, some in a positive way and others not so. If you have personal associations that in any way diminish your aspirations or cause you to doubt yourself, try to limit that exposure. Making dreams a reality requires a steady sense of purpose, and anything that thwarts that purpose threatens the dream. Keeping that in mind, take care to protect as well as renew the passion.
“To everything there is a season…a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted.” -Ecclesiastes 3
If only you could rush those seasons of life! This current season of writing/rewriting would be over and you could get on with a more agreeable season, right? Doesn’t “pluck up what is planted” suggest picking up a diploma?
Your doctoral diploma will indeed be an example of reaping a reward for efforts sown; however, you have earned much more than that during your season as an ABD. You didn’t intend to enroll for the hard lessons of self discipline, but you are learning them. And you probably didn’t think you would be learning how to pick yourself up after stumbling over so many obstacles, but you are rising to overcome challenges. And you doubtless didn’t foresee having to work so hard to recharge your passion (because you probably never thought there would be so many discouraging times when you might lose it), but when the hard times come, you can overcome them and keep charging (recharged!) ahead.
It is mastery over these things you didn’t plan on–the tough things you didn’t enroll in at the outset of your Ph.D. journey–that enable you to grow in ways that will serve you well throughout your lifetime. An old Spanish proverb wisely sums it up:
More grows in the garden than the gardener sows.
June 19, 2009 at 1:09 pm #73599
I see you have not lost your touch! Though I’ve been out of touch with Gov.loop, your words of wisdom put me back in touch with life and reality. I agree, no matter what the goal is, i.e., doctorate, masters, bachelors, or even pursuing a new career, starting a family, the hard work, sweat, tears, etc., pays off in more ways than one.
Thanks for the words of encouragement and enlightenment!
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