Learning to live a little, as I wait for my PhD dream
When I was younger I used to write fictional stories. I don't remember the stories but I remember the theme: fantasy mixed with a healthy dose of reality. I thought it would be cool to see one of my stories in the Scholastic book fairs I attended at the time, seeing my last name on the spine of a publication ‘one day.’ Well one day came and went and I found myself working an uninspiring nine to five, checking the boxes, paying the bills. There was no passion in what I was being paid to do (I was doing the work of office administration, being a fill-in receptionist, a litigation officer, etc). I wasn't leaping out of bed in the morning and felt pretty awful that it seemed like everyone else had it together while I was still stumbling through - even after getting the coveted degree!
An alarm is literally what shifted my mindset. Waking up at 5:30am every day and working sometimes 10 hours at a job I wasn't even passionate about was not working out for me and I wanted a change. My goal at that point? It changed from "publish a paper and get the PhD" to also include "build a life where I don’t dread any day of the week." What a dream!
We all have dreams! A PhD has been mine since I was a child - my abuelo would proudly say I would be one of the first in my family to have one and little-me said yes, I would get those letters after my name because it would help me accomplish my dreams. Dreams are meant to be vast and breathtaking, maybe even a little frightening. They’re the individual, unique passions that have been set on our hearts. But dreams only become powerful when they’re met with actions - steps, plans, and goals. I want to be a woman of action - I am one! I want to be remembered as the one who pursues her passions, lives out her calling, and dances into her dreams. I strive to not see failure as a dead end, but rather the opportunity to take the scenic route in life. I want 2018 to be the year where some of my big dreams are brought into existence.
And then I took it a bit too far and over-worked myself. I used to believe I was "above" rest and incapable of it. I finished undergrad in 3.5 years with two full-time jobs and a side hustle. Sleep? Who needs it! I lied to myself saying, “I operate at a higher level" and burnt myself out like you wouldn't believe - I truly thought being a workaholic was okay. I worked all hours and couldn’t get past my busy brain (P.S. Being constantly busy is not a badge of honor!). My parents were severely worried during my last semester when I was doing all that I mentioned above AND my senior thesis. If they read this, it will be the first they (probably) hear it. I was so busy I would forget to eat and smoothies/granola bars made up the majority of my meals. It was unhealthy, guys - how busy I was.
Now don't get wrong, I still want to get a PhD, badly, but the latter takes precedence because I will still be living a life once a PhD wraps up. That, for me, means forcing myself to learn how to rest. Sad, isn't it? Learning how to rest. To be still.
You see, when I was forced to wait in the past I would become angry because I believed that I was being denied something. That's sort of how I'm feeling in regards to waiting for a PhD position. I'm just waiting for my first publication to go through so I could get on with the rest of my life. Ha! What a notion! Oh Melissa, life is still happening as you stand still, transfixed on this one thing.
"I've done the work! Why don't I get the reward?" I have more than once shouted out in an empty field during a therapeutic run. I got the answer a few days ago when talking to a friend and my own father - maybe, just maybe, the dream is coming... it’s just delayed. When I sat back and looked at it all, I realized that although I hate waiting and hate not "getting on with it," I need this wait. You see, rest takes just as much work as going full speed. In rest I have gained clarity, connected with the innermost parts of my brain that are usually checking things off multiple lists, and was able to cast vision for what I was to do ON my business without being IN it 24/7.
I'm one of those people who believes everything happens for a reason and maybe the reason this PhD isn't happening on my timeline is because this isn't the right opportunity for me. What is? I have no idea. So I guess I'll pull up a chair to the table of “We have no clue what we’re doing, but we’re doing our best!” And you can sit with me. This space is one where we are all welcome, all invited, heard, acknowledged and appreciated. We don't have to have it all together!
This period of waiting has made me come to terms with who MELISSA is, beyond the doer and scientist. I don't know about you, but I still struggle with believing that we are only as good as what we get done or what we do or what we create. You are enough, friends, just as you are.
See, I'm a fan of “making my own path” if there is no option in front of me. There is an importance of “being the first.” Essentially, if you feel a void, you need to approach your dreams with a “no excuses” attitude. I think this period of rest is not only letting me see the voids in my own life but also in business and in science. Maybe that's what this season is intended for.
For you: what is it that you’re spending your life waiting on? A career? A publication? A grant? The perfect relationship? The perfect body? Marriage? A baby? It's fine to wait for these... but don't forget to live while you wait, too.
And speaking of waiting... one average day, the idea of a publication popped into my head again. And with it, a wonderful idea of fantasy and real life like one I have never seen written before. And, having never been a crawler, I leapt. Behind the scenes, I'm creating and cultivating a brand that I hope will inspire and uplift and encourage.
So bring on the waiting... it's going to make me a better person, scientist, and business-woman in the long run. Life, just don't keep me waiting for too long.
Melissa Cristina Márquez (@mcmsharksxx) is the Founder of the The Fins United Initiative. This story was published on February 18, 2018, on Melissa’s blog (available here) and has been republished here with her permission.