On this day, 10 years ago, I earned my PhD. One of the earliest conversations I had with a member of my dissertation committee, Dr Gary King, after passing my oral exams was that as a doctoral candidate, my PhD was written with a pencil, easily erased anytime. But upon a successful defense, it would be written with a permanent marker never to be deleted or erased. On this day, 10 years ago, following my defense, I understood what he meant.
If earning a doctoral degree is challenging, difficult, full of uncertainties and anguish, it is also hopeful, full of joy, and awe of your unique, innate abilities and resilience despite the gloom of a dissertation process. For me, the most fruitful, urgent, challenging work, I ever completed was my doctoral dissertation. However, I started the journey uncertain about how it would end. I knew from the beginning that I would have to write a thesis. But of what, I had no idea. So I plunged into everything. It helped to be in a department that required, no demanded that all students learn not just the behavioral but also the biological, social, economic, environmental and cultural factors that may impact health. Ours was a truly interdisciplinary department. One I remain grateful and thankful for setting the stage for my career. But none of this, absolutely nothing, would have been possible if not for my doctoral advisor. I am a better PhD holder, a former successful doctoral student because he mentored me. My advisor, Dr Airhihenbuwa saw something in me that I never knew existed. He believed in me, especially when I didn’t believe in myself. Every bit of my success starts with his belief in me, mentoring, informing, positioning me to succeed beyond my even my mildest dreams. Today, I also celebrate him for making this day possible.
Then there are my many other support systems that got me through this journey. I have never known anyone who has gotten through their doctoral program without support. All praises go to my boyfriend turned husband who was right there behind the scenes cheering me on. He was indeed a pillar of support when nothing made sense. My family too. They cooked, they prayed, they listened, they lifted me up when my skies were grey. They there were my friends, from the ones who travelled far to listen to my oral defense to the ones who called and screamed when I told them I passed, every single person were like a solid rock. They all contributed to this success. I am a better researcher, 10 years later because of them. My heart is full of gratitude. So what would the next 10 years look like? I have no idea. One thing though is that I will keep the past 10 years in mind, for they helped paved the way for the next 10 years and beyond.