During my 11 year journey to becoming Dr. Jacklyn Chisholm, my wonderful husband and a mentor of mine often reminded me, “If it was easy, everyone would have a Ph.D.” Those words fed my spirit and became my rallying cry. I didn’t realize until much later that the movie Star Wars, and in particular, the character Yoda, would provide me additional words to live by…
I recently had a conversation with my daughter who is applying to graduate school. We were discussing the process and the essay that is required to complete the application. I told her that she just needs to “Do It,” like Nike recommends in their commercials. After almost 20 minutes, I asked her to repeat to me what I suggested her next step should be. She said, “You told me to try.” I said, “No. My advice to you was “Just Do It!”
I then described to her the moment in my doctoral process when I was stuck in “analysis paralysis” — the place where I couldn’t move forward because I felt that I was missing too much information. In actuality, I was SCARED because I didn’t know what the outcome of all of my hard work would be.
The issue was not that I didn’t know what to write about; I had an outline and all of the data that I could gather, but I didn’t know how to organize it. Questions like, “What would the committee look for in the paper? How long should it be? What if I leave something out?” had me tied in knots. You see, I had worked for over 10 years to get to this point of writing the dissertation, and now all of those hours and days without sleep, feelings of anxiety, helplessness, hopelessness, joy and excitement hinged upon 100+ pages of a dissertation that I had to defend to a four-person faculty committee. Talk about pressure!!
In a previous blog and as I noted above, the words, “If it was easy, everyone would do it” were instrumental in getting me through graduate school. However, I still had to do the work and walk my path in order to earn the prize that awaited me at the end of the process. I have often likened it to running a gauntlet with people and obstacles standing in my way. I had to decide (there goes that word again) that I was in it for the long haul.
You will recall that I began the Ph.D. process knowing that God had brought me to it– I didn’t begin graduate school to earn a Ph.D. God only talked to me about applying for the Masters program. It was in my obedience and following through on His guidance that I was told that if I “high passed” the same comprehensive (or “comp”) exam that I was required to complete to earn the Masters, I would be automatically admitted to the Ph.D. program.
My response was, “Is this the kind of doctor you want me to be God!” See, I began undergrad expecting to become a physician, not a psychological anthropologist, but once I accepted God’s plan for me to pursue a Ph.D. rather than a M.D., God then revealed the next step in my process. Like Abraham (for the Bible scholars), God called him to leave his hometown without telling him where he was going until he packed up and left. In other words, it was when Abraham moved that God began to reveal the destination!
Once I agreed to go with God’s plan, my initial internal dialogue with God became, “I’ll try to do what you want me to, but I am afraid because I am outside of my comfort zone and I don’t know where you are leading me.”
I have one more example, I mean, lesson to share on this subject…While I was walking down the aisle to marry my first husband, my thoughts were “I’ll try to make this marriage work. If it doesn’t, I’ll get a divorce.” Needless to say, it happened just as I thought it would because a try is not a commitment to a success, it’s a commitment to an attempt. Yoda understood this when he was coaching young Luke Skywalker, who had returned to the planet where he was to receive training to become a Jedi Knight…
Luke crash-landed his ship in water in his attempt to find the Jedi master to train him. He didn’t recognize Yoda initially as the one he was seeking. Yoda instructed Luke to move the ship out of the water with “the Force.”
Luke responded: “All right, I’ll give it a try.”
I don’t know what “tries” you are attempting. I hope not a lot because you could spin your wheels and make very little headway because you are not fully committed to your success.