6 Jan 2020 – People Like Me
It’s a bizarre feeling – to submit a piece of writing (325 pages long!) you have worked on – and constantly thought about – for 3- 4 years (if you count the initial proposal steps). I am beyond thrilled to see where this thesis (and my career!) will go. But I am also nervous and a little anxious about it.
I have suffered from a very severe case of impostor syndrome during this PhD. This seems to be a normal experience for many of us attempting to make it in academia, especially for those of us who come from ethnic minorities and for whom English is not our native language. However, as I have learned recently, this so-called syndrome is rooted in a deeply classist society which is not built for people like me. As such, this “syndrome” is not a reflection of a person’s (lack of) talent as a researcher, an educator, or a writer, but a reflection of a system that may not be working for everyone.
Despite knowing this, doubt and anxiety were very present throughout this process. I’m not alone, though. Recent research shows that doctoral students are very likely to experience mental health issues due to a variety of reasons, including ‘unmet expectations,’ ‘uncertain futures,’ and ‘discrimination.’ So, as the children say online: “same.”
While it feels comforting to know that I was not (still am?) alone, it also feels unfair. Luckily, I found a community of graduate students who expressed solidarity, supported, and shared ideas and opportunities with one another. Most of my colleagues come from gender, sexual, and ethnic minorities – partly because that’s who I most comfortable being around with and partly because it was difficult to connect with those who were not like me. Nonetheless, due to our various backgrounds and talents, the people in this community made each other stronger – while the deeply classist systems and the unreasonable expectations embedded in academia (which lacked a touch of equity) tried to get the best of us.
I am nervous and a little anxious, yes. But I’m also relieved and excited to see what the future holds for people like me: a gay Colombian person whose parents and grandparents didn’t go to college. I believe we are building and making room us (those who never expected to submit a PhD thesis) – and I’m hopeful that more people like me will be submitting their PhD theses in the future.
For now, I will be (over)thinking about my thesis defense – and asking my colleagues (people like me) for advice!