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‘I’m Sorry, I’m Busy’: A Chaotic Schedule and Added Stress of Those Who Don’t Understand

Published December 13, 2014 by harleyquinnly

I am not writing this blog to sound pretentious or as a ‘look at me! I’m so important because I’m so busy!’ I am writing it because I have been under an immense amount of stress from grad school requirements but additional stress has been added by ‘friends’ that do not understand the work it takes and why I am unavailable for long periods of time. I constantly tell them ‘thank you, but I have to work on my paper’ and send them pictures of the piles of papers/books taking over my house, and yet every time I have a due date, I am bombarded with guilt trip text messages (“you could make time if you wanted to”) or people that flat out refuse to speak to me. I am tired, and tired of it. So here is a look at my typical week’s schedule. This is why I am unavailable and why someday I’ll be called doctor.

(Side note: I am eternally grateful for the wonderful friends I have that understand my schedule, never complain at me, and appreciate when I am able to see them. Thank you.)

This is literally my home office. And I'm normally a super clean person.

This is literally my home office. And I’m normally a super clean person.

I will gladly acknowledge that it is not the easiest to be my friend. I have to check out for weeks at a time when due dates come up. I am not always available for a hangout. Sometimes I have to go months without seeing people. I could remember to check up on people more often. But I do not deserve the added stress just because I am an extremely busy person.

Just one pile of books.

Just one pile of books.

The Schedule

Weekdays: 

8 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Work

Yes, I am a full time student and I have a full time job. I don’t choose to have this life, it was what I was dealt. I am financially unable to only attend school without working and I happen to like food and shelter. I am also unwilling to take out tens of thousands of dollars of student loans I will never be able pay off. There are next to no jobs for history Ph.D.s and those that do exist often do not pay enough to survive on, much less added loan payments. Excuse me for being financially responsible. (I am not throwing shade at those who have students. You do what you have to do. I’m meaning the unnecessary ones).

6 to 7:30 p.m.: Workout then Dinner

The commute home takes me an hour due to traffic, idiocy, and a lack of infrastructure for growing populations. I workout for half an hour (just because I’m busy doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be healthy). I make dinner quickly and watch whatever is on tv at the time, usually a rerun of “The Big Bang Theory.”

I love Sheldon. And feel like a villain the more I'm in school.

I love Sheldon. And feel like a villain the more I’m in school.

7:30 to ~11 p.m. Schoolwork

I spend every evening of every single workday working on schoolwork. This month I have large essays due that require a lot of incorporated reading. I literally do not leave my ‘command center’ I’ve set up on my kitchen table every. single. evening. Therefore, I do not have time to do anything else.

My "command center" on my kitchen table. I live here.

My “command center” on my kitchen table. I live here.

Me in my favorite recliner.

Me in my favorite recliner.

My One Free Day

I usually allow myself one evening a week for free time. Think about if you were working from 8 a.m. until ~10 p.m. without a break. What would you feel like doing on your rare break? Sometimes I get free movie tickets and go see a movie with a friend/date. Other times I just want to veg out on my couch with my non-judgmental friend, Netflix. I apologize for not instantly running to you for your social needs. Also, with only one night out a week, I can only see so many people in that limited amount of time.

Weekends

Hey, it’s the weekend so I have all this free time, right? Nope. Because I work during the weekday, weekends are the only time I get to get work done for long spans of time. When I have papers due, these are the days that I write them.

9 to 10 a.m. Breakfast and Wake Up Time

I usually let myself sleep in until 9 a.m. This is catch-up sleep for me. I get up, make my eggs and tea, and relax for an hour on my couch. I am human and need a little relax time interspersed.

10 to 10:30 a.m. Shower

After breakfast, I shower. Unless I have to see something or do something outside my house, I don’t do hair or makeup and stay in yoga pants.

10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. or sometimes until 4 a.m.

I work on schoolwork the entire day, taking about an hour for lunch and dinner. I sometimes stay up until 4 a.m. because I have a due date and it’s okay if I’m completely sleep-deprived at home rather than at work. These are full days working on schoolwork. I understand people don’t get that I have so much of a workload I have to work this long on weekend. I do.

My dinners usually look like this.

My dinners usually look like this.

So, in conclusion, I have taken time out of my study schedule to detail my schedule. Hopefully it inspires further understanding but I’ve done all I can do. This is my life, please understand or at least respect it.

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Why Am I Doing This? A Dangerous Question During Exam Time for Graduate Students

Published August 17, 2014 by harleyquinnly

9a9ec-existentialcrisis

I am a Ph.D. student in History. I am having an existential crisis. This can apply to people in any type of situation when it gets tough and makes you ask yourself, ‘Why am I doing this?’ Sometimes you don’t have an answer. 

To earn a Ph.D. in history at my university, you must take so many semesters/credit hours of coursework, earning a grade no lower than a B. That is not enough to prove your worth, however. You must take three, six hour long exams over three days, known as comprehensive exams (comps). The three exams are your general field (US history), secondary field (American West), and a minor field (Public History). 

Why are these so daunting? For me personally, I am not good at tests. Sure, I know the information inside and out but when I am handed an exam I can’t even remember what name to put at the top of the page. I will do reviews, projects, or write you a frickin’ book but don’t give me a test. In addition, I am aware that the exam can ask anything that happened in the United States from 1492 until the 1980s. That’s roughly five hundred years of stuff. And you must know what every historian has written about each era as well. 

scream

Yes, I’m aware it’s a form of academic hazing. It’s weeding out the lesser, supposed to be humbling, etc. As if taking (and acing) history courses for about ten years isn’t good enough. And humbling? What about surviving the professors that routinely made your colleagues cry and whose classes required multiple all-nighters (not from procrastination either). 

What I’m getting at, besides being whiney, is today after I found out I must also submit a dissertation proposal during the exact same time as I’m supposed to be studying (and getting signatures from my committee is like herding cats). I made the mistake of asking myself, “Why am I doing this to myself? Why am I even getting my Ph.D.?”

exist crisis

Most people go to graduate school to get degrees required for higher jobs. I went for my Ph.D. because I had just gone through a divorce, wanted to avoid a personal life, and only knew of adulthood through the lens of a college student. I genuinely love the classroom and reading, any academic pursuit really. If I had unlimited scholarships I would be happy doing nothing but being a perpetual student. 

But then there’s real life. The place where I had to quit my dream job I went to graduate school for in the first place because it didn’t pay enough for me to survive on. The place where I work a horrid 40+ hours a week job with a verbally abusive boss before going home to stress over these exams. I’m proud to say that through hard work, scholarships, help, and luck I have no student loans, but I’ve paid dearly for that in other ways. Because I work, I am unable to dedicate myself to publishing (which is the only means to employment, if you can even find it). So why am I doing this?

i-dont-know-who-i-am-any-more

In addition, where I live, having higher education makes you more unemployable than a felon. I often lie and leave off my higher education on resumes or I don’t receive interviews or are flat out told I am over-educated, over-qualified, etc. Smart people need to eat too. (I’m serious about the felon part-I know of a registered sex offender that has a job that pays three times as much as mine)

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I wish I could end this post with an enlightened, ‘This is what I reminded myself of why I’m doing what I’m doing’ but I’m not there yet. I don’t have an answer. Maybe I’m doing this because I’ve already worked for three years to get this far into the Ph.D. Maybe because school was the only thing I felt I was ever good at and base my sense of worth upon it. 

Perhaps this is why you seldom see sober Ph.D. students when they’re studying for comps.

exist 3

Twenty-One Things Academics Hate

Published February 11, 2013 by harleyquinnly

‘Professor, why are we doing this?’

While every job has their annoyances, this post includes those specifically encountered by graduate students and those working in academia. Unless you actually work in this field, do not automatically assume we all have cushy, easy jobs and just like to complain about the lack of coffee packages for our Kurigs. Like others, we also face extreme high unemployment and debt, low salaries, and underappreciation. There have been several articles released lately on how Ph.D.’s are facing reliance on foodstamps due to unemployment or low salaries despite earning four college degrees. So why do we endure this craziness and suffering? Because we love it…and we are slightly masochistic.

Madison Moore, “21 Things Academics Hate,” Thought Catalog, January 13, 2013 (accessed February 11, 2013).

1) Being unemployed. Not that other people don’t hate being unemployed, too. But unless you’re a lucky person who has already secured that coveted mirage of a tenure-track job — and even then you’ve only got six years to get it together — being in academia means that, at some point, you could be an unemployed person with a lot of degrees!

2) REVISIONS. (Everything that is done must be redone at least twenty times before it comes close to being good enough)

3) Ratchet departmental politics. There are always office politics in any career. But in academia, everybody’s heard the story about how so-in-so didn’t get tenure because the department chair kind of hates her or thinks her research is silly. Or has been on a search committee where somebody thinks a candidate who works on anything after 1832 is totally irrelevant. Or how about why we can’t have the department holiday party at Stephanie’s house because Stephanie and Blake do NOT get along.

4) Being in debt — credit card debt — from all those broke ass years in graduate school.

5) “The Administration,” because it seems like they get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to make things as complicated as possible, for everyone, at all times.

6) The “heterosexual matrix” and/or patriarchy.

7) When people ask how the dissertation/book manuscript/article is coming along and you honestly don’t know because you haven’t touched it.

8) Formatting academic articles to the exact specifications the journal requires. And you thought academia was just about ideas — HA!

9) When Word freezes when you’re in the middle of a streak of brilliance and you forgot to save your stuff.

10) Feeling anxious about every interaction with a senior scholar, because senior scholars are the GATEKEEPERS. Do they like me? OMG do they think I’m an idiot?

11) When someone asks a long-winded question during the Q+A that has absolutely nothing to do with what your talk was on, so now you have to maintain your composure, smile and respond WITHOUT seeming like an A-hole.

12) When student papers begin with sweeping claim like “since the beginning of man.”

13) Going on the job market.

14) Tenure reviews.

15) Being underpaid for the amount of work you do. You’re teaching four classes a semester, plus you’re on 12 committees and you have a book manuscript to work on. And if you don’t find the time to finish that, you’re gonna get fired!

16) Overly negative reviews from blind, peer review publications. Because the reviewers don’t know who you are, that means they get to be even meaner.

17) When students email you about the grade they got at the end of the semester, instead of putting the work in DURING it.

18) Anxiety and the diverse medical issues associated with it.

19) When someone has ripped several key pages out of a library book.

20) If someone says that academia isn’t a “real” job.

21) BEING TOLD THEY HAVE THE #1 LEAST STRESSFUL JOB IN THE COUNTRY.

I am working on my fourth degree, have a professional job, and still eat ramen at least once a day

How to Fail a Ph.D.

Published October 23, 2012 by harleyquinnly

This is a great blog I found elsewhere. I’m so guilty of many of these and they make complete sense. And I agree getting a Ph.D. is monastic.

“10 easy ways to fail a Ph.D.” http://matt.might.net/articles/ways-to-fail-a-phd/

The attrition rate in Ph.D. school is high. Anywhere from a third to half will fail. In fact, there’s a disturbing consistency to grad school failure. I’m supervising a lot of new grad students this semester, so for their sake, I’m cataloging the common reasons for failure.

Read on for the top ten reasons students fail out of Ph.D. school.

1. Focus on grades or coursework
No one cares about grades in grad school.

There’s a simple formula for the optimal GPA in grad school:

Optimal GPA = Minimum Required GPA + ε
Anything higher implies time that could have been spent on research was wasted on classes. Advisors might even raise an eyebrow at a 4.0

During the first two years, students need to find an advisor, pick a research area, read a lot of papers and try small, exploratory research projects. Spending too much time on coursework distracts from these objectives.

2. Learn too much

Some students go to Ph.D. school because they want to learn.

Let there be no mistake: Ph.D. school involves a lot of learning.

But, it requires focused learning directed toward an eventual thesis.

Taking (or sitting in on) non-required classes outside one’s focus is almost always a waste of time, and it’s always unnecessary.

By the end of the third year, a typical Ph.D. student needs to have read about 50 to 150 papers to defend the novelty of a proposed thesis.

Of course, some students go too far with the related work search, reading so much about their intended area of research that they never start that research.

Advisors will lose patience with “eternal” students that aren’t focused on the goal–making a small but significant contribution to human knowledge.

In the interest of personal disclosure, I suffered from the “want to learn everything” bug when I got to Ph.D. school.

I took classes all over campus for my first two years: Arabic, linguistics, economics, physics, math and even philosophy. In computer science, I took lots of classes in areas that had nothing to do with my research.

The price of all this “enlightenment” was an extra year on my Ph.D.

I only got away with this detour because while I was doing all that, I was a TA, which meant I wasn’t wasting my advisor’s grant funding.

3. Expect perfection

Perfectionism is a tragic affliction in academia, since it tends to hit the brightest the hardest.

Perfection cannot be attained. It is approached in the limit.

Students that polish a research paper well past the point of diminishing returns, expecting to hit perfection, will never stop polishing.

Students that can’t begin to write until they have the perfect structure of the paper mapped out will never get started.

For students with problems starting on a paper or dissertation, my advice is that writing a paper should be an iterative process: start with an outline and some rough notes; take a pass over the paper and improve it a little; rinse; repeat. When the paper changes little with each pass, it’s at diminishing returns. One or two more passes over the paper are all it needs at that point.

“Good enough” is better than “perfect.”

4. Procrastinate

Chronic perfectionists also tend to be procrastinators.

So do eternal students with a drive to learn instead of research.

Ph.D. school seems to be a magnet for every kind of procrastinator.

Unfortunately, it is also a sieve that weeds out the unproductive.

Procrastinators should check out my tips for boosting productivity.

5. Go rogue too soon/too late

The advisor-advisee dynamic needs to shift over the course of a degree.

Early on, the advisor should be hands on, doling out specific topics and helping to craft early papers.

Toward the end, the student should know more than the advisor about her topic. Once the inversion happens, she needs to “go rogue” and start choosing the topics to investigate and initiating the paper write-ups. She needs to do so even if her advisor is insisting she do something else.

The trick is getting the timing right.

Going rogue before the student knows how to choose good topics and write well will end in wasted paper submissions and a grumpy advisor.

On the other hand, continuing to act only when ordered to act past a certain point will strain an advisor that expects to start seeing a “return” on an investment of time and hard-won grant money.

Advisors expect near-terminal Ph.D. students to be proto-professors with intimate knowledge of the challenges in their field. They should be capable of selecting and attacking research problems of appropriate size and scope.

6. Treat Ph.D. school like school or work

Ph.D. school is neither school nor work.

Ph.D. school is a monastic experience. And, a jealous hobby.

Solving problems and writing up papers well enough to pass peer review demands contemplative labor on days, nights and weekends.

Reading through all of the related work takes biblical levels of devotion.

Ph.D. school even comes with built-in vows of poverty and obedience.

The end brings an ecclesiastical robe and a clerical hood.

Students that treat Ph.D. school like a 9-5 endeavor are the ones that take 7+ years to finish, or end up ABD.

7. Ignore the committee

Some Ph.D. students forget that a committee has to sign off on their Ph.D.

It’s important for students to maintain contact with committee members in the latter years of a Ph.D. They need to know what a student is doing.

It’s also easy to forget advice from a committee member since they’re not an everyday presence like an advisor.

Committee members, however, rarely forget the advice they give.

It doesn’t usually happen, but I’ve seen a shouting match between a committee member and a defender where they disagreed over the metrics used for evaluation of an experiment. This committee member warned the student at his proposal about his choice of metrics.

He ignored that warning.

He was lucky: it added only one more semester to his Ph.D.

Another student I knew in grad school was told not to defend, based on the draft of his dissertation. He overruled his committee’s advice, and failed his defense. He was told to scrap his entire dissertaton and start over. It took him over ten years to finish his Ph.D.

8. Aim too low

Some students look at the weakest student to get a Ph.D. in their department and aim for that.

This attitude guarantees that no professorship will be waiting for them.

And, it all but promises failure.

The weakest Ph.D. to escape was probably repeatedly unlucky with research topics, and had to settle for a contingency plan.

Aiming low leaves no room for uncertainty.

And, research is always uncertain.

9. Aim too high

A Ph.D. seems like a major undertaking from the perspective of the student.

It is.

But, it is not the final undertaking. It’s the start of a scientific career.

A Ph.D. does not have to cure cancer or enable cold fusion.

At best a handful of chemists remember what Einstein’s Ph.D. was in.

Einstein’s Ph.D. dissertation was a principled calculation meant to estimate Avogadro’s number. He got it wrong. By a factor of 3.

He still got a Ph.D.

A Ph.D. is a small but significant contribution to human knowledge.

Impact is something students should aim for over a lifetime of research.

Making a big impact with a Ph.D. is about as likely as hitting a bullseye the very first time you’ve fired a gun.

Once you know how to shoot, you can keep shooting until you hit it.

Plus, with a Ph.D., you get a lifetime supply of ammo.

Some advisors can give you a list of potential research topics. If they can, pick the topic that’s easiest to do but which still retains your interest.

It does not matter at all what you get your Ph.D. in.

All that matters is that you get one.

It’s the training that counts–not the topic.

10. Miss the real milestones

Most schools require coursework, qualifiers, thesis proposal, thesis defense and dissertation. These are the requirements on paper.

In practice, the real milestones are three good publications connected by a (perhaps loosely) unified theme.

Coursework and qualifiers are meant to undo admissions mistakes. A student that has published by the time she takes her qualifiers is not a mistake.

Once a student has two good publications, if she convinces her committee that she can extrapolate a third, she has a thesis proposal.

Once a student has three publications, she has defended, with reasonable confidence, that she can repeatedly conduct research of sufficient quality to meet the standards of peer review. If she draws a unifying theme, she has a thesis, and if she staples her publications together, she has a dissertation.

I fantasize about buying an industrial-grade stapler capable of punching through three journal papers and calling it The Dissertator.

Of course, three publications is nowhere near enough to get a professorship–even at a crappy school. But, it’s about enough to get a Ph.D.

Conflict between Academic and Public Historians

Published August 31, 2012 by harleyquinnly

This is more of a blog for my colleagues or new professionals who are wondering why some historians do not like or sometimes even speak to others. This probably applies to anyone’s work place. Quickly: historians are classified as either academic historians (work as professors in universities or research and write several books) or public historians (work with the public, mostly in museums, preservation, etc.)

This post originates from public history books I have had to read for my public history minor. My boyfriend is currently taking the same class and asked me if academic historians are really assholes and as full of themselves as the authors stated. As I started to get a small twitch in my eye, I started to explain why there are those perceptions. Then it hit me: I have never read a published work in which an academic historian spends an entire book, chapter, or even a mention of a dislike of public historians. (If I am wrong, PLEASE send me the title of the book).

With the highly biased dislike, almost hatred, of academic historians, in the public history book, I think that a more complete description of the friction between the two is needed. As I tried to explain the differences to my righteous boyfriend, I created this post.

I will try to be as unbiased as humanly possible. I professionally “play both sides of the field.” I started my career and have two degrees in public history and still currently work in public history as well as an academic professor as well. I don’t think one is better than the other; both are needed and contribute to the field. Since public historians are the only ones I know of that actively post against academics, this blog is to kind of explain the tensions academic historians have since public historians have published their side. I don’t wish to offend anyone or try to sway that one side is better than the other. I’m just pointing out some of the thoughts.

-Public historians have published and spent chapters or at least a couple of paragraphs stating that academic historians are arrogant, pompous, assholes. As far as I know (I fully admit I could not know) academics have not published how they dislike public historians. Being attacked in publication probably doesn’t make academics happy. I’m sure public historians have received scorn or ridicule while in college, and that isn’t right, but I don’t know of anything actively published against them.

-Public historians often insinuate that academics are unimportant and spend all their time locked in ivy towers and do not contribute to the field. They mostly ignore that academics spend their time preparing lectures, researching and writing history. If it is mentioned, public historians state academics write only long, boring, useless monographs that no one reads but the author.

-Public historians often are clueless about citations and copyright restrictions, sometimes intentionally. Not all, I’m aware. Often when one is putting together a public guide or project, they will use the original research/writing of an academic historian without giving them any credit or citation in the article or in the bibliography. Yes, if used to educate others there is a “Fair Use” clause to copyright laws but that only goes so far and it is still professional to add a citation. This is called stealing and understandably makes people a little cranky after putting blood, sweat, tears, and Taco Bell into this work.

-Without academic historians, public workers would not have new interpretations or information about different aspects of history. Public historians are busy working with the public and do not have the time (or sometimes training) to research and write as much as academic historians.

-Public historians are trained by academics. Before they earn their professional experience from internships and public history courses, they are taught the field of history by academics. A little appreciation would be nice.

-Some public historians are not professionally trained. That is phasing out as more universities are building museum studies/public history departments. The ones who are not trained, however, are constantly butchering what academic (and professional public) historians are working hard to create and correct.

-Both public and academic historians are important and the work of each contributes to the other. Academic historians research, write, and teach history while public historians take that knowledge and training and disseminate it to the general public.

Historians of both types are horrendously underpaid and underappreciated. This factionalism does not help. How can people like us and think we are important if we don’t even like each other? I understand both have offended the other, but it doesn’t help anything. Until historians are appreciated by everyone, pay is raised to at least a comparative level of people who did not work near as hard to get to their job, politicians stop butchering history to use for their purpose to their campaigns, and all high school students know who the president is, we need to stick together. Those things will never happen, but all the more important to unify, to be stronger and better at what we do.

From Homeless to Harvard: What It Can Mean to You and I

Published August 3, 2012 by harleyquinnly

The movie From Homeless to Harvard is Liz Murray’s story, her journey, from drug addicted parents, group homes, to school, and eventually, Harvard. Everyone has a journey to college or wherever they go in life. Murray’s is an extreme example of what hard work and iron will can accomplish regardless of environment. (This gives away some details of the movie, but due to the title, I can’t really completely call spoiler alert).

One message I see through her story is that your environment does not have to make you. YOU make you, you make your own decisions, and you get yourself wherever in life through fight, work, stubbornness, and sometimes sheer luck. Murray’s parents were drug addicted, spending their welfare checks on heroin while her and her sister starved. Yet even after becoming homeless at age fifteen and stealing food (and self help books) to survive, she never did drugs. She never fell into that never ending cycle of abuse and dependency. Sure, I can see how if that’s what you see when you grow up, you may be more likely to repeat those actions. But it doesn’t automatically mean you have to. It is YOUR choice. As a child of a parent with an addiction, I almost become livid when young adult addicts, murderers, domestic abusers, etc. say none of their actions are really their fault because their parents weren’t the best role models. You still made the choices. It’s not about oh poor me, give me everything. It’s about being able to be proud of how far you’ve come. Break the cycle, be the change.

Murray’s story also tells of the power of encouragement and how the fact that someone cares enough to push you can mean the world to you and help you keep going. When she was a little girl there was an older lady, who was as poor as her family, who would dig in the dumpster to give Murray tossed out encyclopedias and books to read. The lady would tell her that she better go to school if she didn’t want to be an idiot. Whether it be that one special relative, an attentive teacher, or encouraging friend, that person who gave you the initial push to pursue your goals serves as probably one of the best gifts in life. I was so lucky to have several of these supportive people. In elementary and high school, I had those teachers who used to give me harder and different work than my classmates, offered to send me to science camp to get me away from my home life, filled out college scholarships for me, and gave me the approval and encouragement I so desperately craved. In college, it continued with supportive professors who took the time to praise my work, had me read my essay test answers aloud to the rest of the class, informed me of scholarships, and spoke brutally honest regarding my work. While much of this sounds like I’m a little narcissistic and an academic snob, it wasn’t about that at all. I started college on my eighteenth birthday and as an insecure, shy, timid, worried girl, I had no sense of self, nor what I was capable of. That encouragement gave me the first inkling that maybe I could do something great. Like in Murray’s story, after encouragement from her teacher she began to think of bigger, grander  goals, asking herself, “what if I worked harder?”

Murray wasn’t always the model student. She rarely showed up to school, often because she took care of her ailing mother and because she didn’t know how to learn in a classroom setting. She never really thought of school, telling her terminally ill mother that she’d go back to school when she got better. But then her mother dies, and Murray calls it the slap in the face. She talks about how she always waited for her mother to get better so she could take care of her, like a real mother-daughter relationship. But instead she was always taking care of her mother, who was like her baby. After her mother dies, her teacher tells her “now it’s time to take care of yourself.”

Everyone has a reason, that one driving force, for them to go to and graduate from college. Whether it be that you truly love learning, don’t want to work in retail/food service jobs, or you know the harsh reality of a non-educated life (for some), always hold on to that reason. That reason will be the key to your dedication. When you’re tired from working multiple jobs to pay your tuition, you’ve pulled three all-nighters, or you’re just emotionally drained, remember your main reason for your goals, for your dreams. If that thought isn’t enough to keep you going then it isn’t strong enough and you need to do some intense soul-searching to find the real reason to keep going.

I had a professor in my first or second year of college, after realizing that I hadn’t taken the traditional route to college, said it was probably an interesting story of how I had gotten there. I had never thought about it before. I knew my previous life experiences were probably different from my classmates, after hearing them speak all semester but I never thought of my journey to college as “work.” I was so excited to be there, happy and eager. Now that I’m a professor, it astounds me to hear how much people not only hate being in school, but they hate physically being in a learning environment. It makes me so thankful that I had a little bit of a rougher journey so that I can better appreciate the opportunities and experiences I have had. I’m sometimes told that I make things in my life harder than they need to be. After thinking a bit, I replied that if anything is easy, it’s not worth it. After Murray’s teacher learns of her overload of courses he says, “You’re going to kill yourself.” She replies, “No, I’m gonna live.”

There are several messages that can be learned from Liz Murray’s story in Homeless to Harvard (which is based on a real person with those real experiences). Overall, it serves as an example of taking control of your life, working as hard as inhumanly possible to achieve your goals, and appreciating the journey along the way.

“I knew at that moment I could make excuses for the rest of my life. Or I could push myself and make myself good.”

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