In my current vocational life, I have the privilege of walking the path of scholarly development along with my doctoral student colleagues. I am writing this blog today as I proctor an exam for the students in my research methods seminar, so I am thinking about all the hopeful waiting that has been a part of my own professional journey. I have a favorite moment, though, so it seemed fitting to share here today as I reflect on waiting in hope.
The morning had been a blur. I vaguely recall that I made muffins, and brought a small token of thanks for each member of my dissertation committee. I know I had a well-rehearsed PowerPoint presentation, and that I was wearing an olive green suit with some fabulous looking matching heels which hurt like hell after about 15 minutes. Other than the foot pain, I was immune to most other feelings; instead I was operating on pure adrenaline. This was the morning of my dissertation defense.
When I had given my talk, responded to questions, and in all other ways emptied my brain of swirling knowledge and thoughts, I was ushered off to wait in a faculty member’s office while the dissertation committee reached a consensus on whether I would take on a new title and a new degree. It was surreal, really. I tried (unsuccessfully) to sit down. I paced, and pretended to read book titles on the shelves. I went over my questions and responses, looking for clues as to whether the facial expressions of my committee members suggested the outcome. I felt relieved and hopeful. I also didn’t have anything else in my world of experience to compare this to, so I worried that my hope was simply naïveté in disguise. I kicked myself on a couple points I wish I had made. I patted myself on the back for remaining scholarly but emotionally unflappable when critiqued. I paced some more. I waited and I hoped.
My advent reflection today pauses at that exact moment. If I could go back to that nervous but hopeful doctoral candidate, I would pose her a few questions:
Did you just change?
How do you now see yourself?
Will the title that others hopefully confer on you change who you are?
Could you ever, really, go back to a time before this?
What I have learned about hopeful waiting is this: when we are waiting in hopeful expectation, we are already changed. I was changed that day, and I would have been changed by the experience of my doctoral program no matter what news would have been delivered. Titles can be presented to me, others can evaluate me. But, when I wait in hopeful expectation it is likely I have already made a change in how I see myself. The rest is the validation, the social recognition, the icing on the proverbial cake.
Well, I have to tell the outcome of this story, because it is so much fun. My spouse and daughter (just a toddler then) had come in at the time when an announcement was supposed to be made. The logistics are a blur (see previous comments re: adrenaline) but what I most remember was seeing my dissertation chair walk out of the room smiling, and inviting me to come into the room. She called me by new title, but my daughter upstaged her and (with some obvious prior coaching) announced, “Dr. Mom-Mom!”
In my hopeful waiting, I had already changed.