Feb 4, 2016


So this is it. Life after grad school.

I defended my dissertation last week, and I am happy to announce that I am a doctor! Pending a few formatting changes, I will submit my dissertation in the next few weeks and await graduation in May. {Yes, I will walk. Yes, I will wear the crazy tam hat, probably for days on end. Yes, there will be a party.}

The journey is over.

You might claim the journey started when I decided as a kid to become a "doctor of books" someday. On a more technical level, the journey has taken up the past five and a half years of my life.

I have been in grad school the entire time I've been married, save the wedding day itself, the honeymoon, and about three days' time where we driving a moving truck from Seattle to Phoenix before my first classes began. We got married on July 11th, and I'm pretty sure TA training for my PhD program began on July 29th.

I had two babies during grad school. Two humans fully formed and birthed into this world. I took my last course the semester Zianne was born. I missed one class meeting for her birth and returned a week later, leaving my 9 day old daughter at home with her grandparents. I received an email notification that I had reached candidacy (formal speak for "all but dissertation") on Zianne's first birthday. I also happened to get pregnant that same week, and I spent the next nine months growing a baby and a dissertation at the same time. Week by week, month by month, the chapters grew as my stomach swelled. I was halfway done with my last chapter when Talitha was born, and I finished the manuscript with her sleepy, week-old body strapped to my chest.

We moved to a new state while I was in grad school. With the end of my program finally in sight and Micah eager for new career opportunities, we took a risk and moved to California this past fall. My final meeting with my dissertation chair happened via Google Hangouts on my phone while sitting in a coffee shop.

And now it's over. And I can breathe.

You don't notice that your oxygen is diminishing until you finally get a gust of air and inhale deeply all those gases needed to sustain life. It's almost alarming. Was I really living with 20% of my normal air supply?

And what does breathing look like? I'm not quite sure yet. Today, it meant taking the girls to the library.

In our new neighborhood, there is a park directly across the street from our front door. And the public library is just around the corner. Sadly, though, I haven't taken the girls to these places in months. Every second of life has been devoted to finishing my dissertation and if something wasn't necessary for survival {eating lunch} or my sanity {cleaning the house}, it just didn't get a spot on our agenda.

Last Wednesday, I was crying for lack of sleep. This Wednesday, I took the girls to the library.

I am still so busy, and in the back of my mind I laughingly wonder how I ever completed my dissertation. Today, I got the bathrooms cleaned, but it made us 15 minutes late for library story time. I let the girls linger afterward and checked out six books for them, which made us late getting to the gym. When we arrived, I had exactly 30 minutes to finish a 28 minute 5K before the childcare closed, but by the time I got the girls situated and made my way to the treadmill, I had to settle for an 18 minute interval run. Then I darted into a taco shop to pick up an easy, inexpensive lunch, which Zianne proceeded to dump all over the floor of TJ Maxx. We got home for a late nap time, and I quickly began addressing envelopes for an upcoming baby shower while the girls slept. I started dinner late, so we didn't eat until 7pm, and as I was cleaning up afterward, I sincerely questioned, "How I ever write a 150 page research manuscript?" But the truth of the matter is God provides... and we paid for a lot of extra childcare.

So this is me, just breathing. Life is still busy. I have two young kids and a job, and there is never enough time in the day. But the hugest burden has been lifted. My lungs are filled with oxygen once again, and I am excited to breathe in the fresh air at that park across the street.


  1. Megan2/4/16, 9:43 AM

    Congratulations! My husband has his doctorate too, and I know how much work you had to do to earn your degree. And to do it with very small children - wow. Our three were born since he finished grad school and we often say how difficult it would have been to have them during that stressful time. Hats off to you and so glad you're going to walk and have a party - you deserve it!

  2. Justine2/4/16, 12:46 PM

    Congratulations Jen! What an immense and amazing accomplishment you have achieved!! While it was my husband and not me in school (I got that all out of the way before we met :), I know what exactly what you are talking about when you say you feel like you can finally BREATHE. One year after I met my husband, at 28, he decided to go back to medical school. He worked full time for 2 years while going to school at night full time to get an associates degree in Biology so he could even APPLY to schools. Then he got in and we spent the next 4 1/2 years of our lives in medical school, all while we added to our family, three beautiful girls. 5 weeks after he graduated medical school, 2 days after he started his residency, we welcomed our 4th baby and now with a year and a half left of residency- we will welcome our 5th child all while he starts to look for jobs as an attending physician. I felt like I could start breathing once he secured his residency and started working and have never looked back. It is a true gift to feel like you have that kind of room in your life!! Congratulations again- SO AWESOME!!

  3. Nicole M. Hutchison2/5/16, 12:05 AM

    DOCTOR JEN! A big, huge, Texas-size *CONGRATS* sent your way. Goodness gracious, I'm so proud of you and so humbled to be your "virtual" friend. You're a Super Mom in my book, the way you can accomplish all of these wonderful things. Way to go!!!!

  4. erin2/7/16, 11:21 AM

    Congratulations! I the Program Director for an initiative at my firm called When Women Thrive. Your story, your journey, your accomplishments are just that. Way to go mama, wife, friend, daughter, sister, student and now DOCTOR.

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