succumbing to peer pressure

Monday, May 14, 2007

Tribes* do it differently.

Just back from a luncheon celebrating a colleague's hooding (awarding of PhD) and I think it crystallized for me some important aspects of my own graduate career. Things I've been trying to deny or at least not embrace and compare to my parents' graduate experiences. The thing is, the more I step back from my hero worship, the more I can see that the reason Dad keeps encouraging me (and others) to move forward, to just get through school and graduate and get a job and start your life already is that that is how school was to him - it wasn't life, it wasn't particularly great, it was simply a means to an end. Something to get through. That, thankfully, is the antithesis of my experience (anxiety and general craziness aside). So I sat today in a room full of friends and family, all celebrating Renee's graduation, and all repeating similar things - how glad they were that earning a PhD hadn't changed who she was as a person. That she had gone through this process without losing herself. And I thought about what it was like to have her around in the department, how much it helped to remind myself that she was here, plugging along, struggling, figuring things out, not always having all the answers, having a life. Faculty stood up and said how proud they were to watch her grow from a new young scholar into a strong independent scholar with her own faculty career unfolding ahead of her. Classmates stood up and reminisced about studying for quals together and how neither would have gotten through it without the other. Her parents stood up and thanked us for being her community, for taking care of her, supporting her, and encouraging her through this process. They said you always worry and hope when you send a child out into the world and they felt lucky that their child was surrounded by people like us. A friend from another department spoke about how writing a dissertation often feels like a very solitary, isolating process and how proud she was of Renee and how much she missed having her around while working on her own dissertation.

My parents got married right before grad school, and although I know they had friends and socialized and whatnot, I also know that the second they both turned in their thesis and dissertation they took off for WV. Neither stayed for graduation, I'm pretty sure neither set of parents came up to offer congratulations in person. Dad had a job to start, they had a life to begin. It worked for them. But I can't see myself doing it that way. I need the room full of people. I need a different life, one with room for non-statistical things.

*Ethan Waters wrote this book (which I haven't read) calling the new non-biological family that many unmarried 20- and 30-somethings surround themselves with an urban tribe.


Post a Comment

<< Home