A Thankful Journey

From ABD to ABD: A Thankful Journey From “ALL But Dissertation” to “All BUT Dissertation”

By Charm Moreto Damon

You ask, “What?” Well, long and short, I was a doctoral candidate who had completed all course work and comprehensive oral/written exams ready to embark on writing my dissertation for the ever-coveted Ph.D. title (hence the title, ABD – ALL But Dissertation).

Then, BAM! Life and goodness happened, and I was hired as an English as A Second Language Instructor and Specialist at a Public Ivy university here in Ohio.  With the exciting responsibilities I had at this fulfilling job, and knowing I had five full years to complete my dissertation, I gently set my own academic writing and research aside, absolutely certain I would be working on it in a year once I have settled perfectly into my new life. I was now repelling Ph.D., and attracting and doing everything but working on this dissertation (hence the same but differently defined title, ABD – All BUT Dissertation).

Then, BAM BAM! Life and goodness happened again not long after, and I became engaged, got married, and was expecting a baby boy! I finished the school year and summer term at work, then decided to take a year-long sabbatical, certain and assured that I would be returning to work for the same position thereafter.

Then, BAM BAM BAM! More life and goodness happened. This wifehood and motherhood thing, they are just so hard to get away from! (Well, full-time motherhood, more so, truthfully.) A school year sabbatical and a day later, I was ready to return to the job I loved, but only one foot and half-a-heart seemed to agree.  A phone call and teaching assignment cancellation to my supervisor later, I was back to being a stay-at-home wife and mom, promising him to return the following year. Or so I thought….

You see, BAM BAM BAM PINK! My little family of three was now going to be four, and more life and goodness was ready to happen again with the arrival of our little girl.  Hence from then until today, I continue to be an ABD, not so much with the expectation to finally finish, defend and publish my dissertation, but ironically more so with the necessity to do everything else but my dissertation.

A few successful and failed attempts at writing and conducting research in between diaper changes, Origami-ing and dancing to “This Old Man,” I knew something had to give.  Today, six years after my doctoral comprehensive exams, I am as far away as I could be in putting the last full stop to my dissertation file document.  But today, six years since, I am filling in my life ellipsis one dot at a time each moment I change diapers, practice Origami and dance to “This Old Man.” Today, my beautiful life continues, and is being so eloquently written by the experiences I have with my family and friends, even without a Ph.D.

Once in a few times, I feel regret for not rigorously pursuing the culmination of my academic dreams and achievements.  Twice in a few times, I feel ambivalence for my personal achievements today, and occasionally play the “I-wonder-if” game. Many a few times, however, I feel pride for rigorously pursuing the establishment of and experiencing my life as a stay-at-home wife and mother amidst lack of sleep, “I-want-this-mommys,” and rushed meals and bathroom breaks. But many a time, and what is also a life-long effort and journey for me, I feel special gratitude for both what is here and not.

Today and when I am able to, I feel gratitude for what IS here; The….

  1. Time to raise my children full-time;
  2. Personal writing opportunities, albeit few, when kids are napping;
  3. Knowledge and energy to volunteer and teach about other cultures to kids at a moms club I belong to;
  4. Social and learning activities my children and I attend with our friends;
  5. Cartoon-character band-aids for real and imaginary boo-boos.

Today and when I am able to, I also feel gratitude for what IS NOT here; The….

  1. Time investment to grade student writing on weekends and late nights;
  2. Early campus arrival to get a parking spot closest to my office building;
  3. Deadlines for dissertation draft submissions;
  4. Stress associated with “publish or perish.”
  5. “Dr.” title, and have others be disappointment to learn I am not a surgeon. J

Today, what is here and absent that you are you are thankful for? Happy Thanksgiving!