A Brilliant Academic Warrior Woman Responds
The title got my attention: “To my fiercely brilliant Black and brilliant academic warrior women who are surviving or have survived graduate school, I need your help.”
Well, I’m fiercely brilliant. **fluffs fro**
And Black. **Black Power salutes**
And I would not object to being called an academic warrior woman. **grabs sword and shield**
And yes, despite the psychological scars, I have survived graduate school. **bangs tambourine and praise dances**
So, here are my responses to the questions:
“1) If you could go back to the time where you were applying to or entering graduate school, what advice would you now give to your past self?”
Cultivate good habits. Exercise, eating nutritious food, getting restful sleep are all good habits. Isolating yourself, eating junk food, and pulling all-nighters are not good habits. In some recovery programs, they use the HALT acronym. Don’t get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. In grad school, you can easily hit all four of these before 10 a.m. Seek supportive people who will help you to stay on track. An exercise buddy who pushes you through that last rep. A friend who encourages you to order a salad. A family member who reminds you to take your medication.
“2) Are there any things that you know now that you wish you knew then?”
Despite the Apocalypse Now-ness of my program, I managed to survive, evade, resist and escape. I earned my doctoral degree and secured a tenure-track faculty position in my field of expertise. I became an academic in order to teach, and I am fortunate to do what I love. Although many Ph.D. graduates face bleak employment prospects, I wish that I could tell my past self that it has been worth it and to keep going. I would tell her how it feels when someone calls you “Dr.” for the first time, when you slip into your regalia every year, and when you step into your classroom every semester.
“3) What survival tips and coping skills have you learned as a woman of color making a path for yourself in postgraduate academia?”
Dogged persistence got me through my program. Now that I am on the other side, I am working on not just surviving but thriving as a Black woman academic. For me, that involves CrossFit, yoga, a slow cooker, a tight circle of colleagues, a tighter circle of friends, a stable of good doctors, a miracle-working hair stylist/confessor, and an intimate relationship with Netflix.
Other “Wisdom and Advice”
Many, many people will discourage you from pursuing your plans. I don’t encourage or discourage. I do suggest that you count up the cost. I try to clear a path for those coming after me by sharing my experiences and other resources. For me, it has been worth it, but YMMV. Keep on keepin’ on!