I like to listen to podcasts while I am getting ready for work in the mornings. Not only does it help break the monotony of my routine and primes my brain for another day in the classroom, but I often stumble upon a nugget of wisdom I didn’t even know that I needed.
I was sitting at a red light on my way home from work recently when the notion of going back to school entered my head, and I’m not talking about turning around and driving back from whence I came, rather going back to college… to get my PhD.
I had always said that I would never get my doctorate, just as I’d always said that I never aspired to end up in administration, but here I was wondering what if.
The subconscious is funny in the way it works. This year, I had to reapply to my school district’s leadership pool—a pool that you get to swim in for three years and my three years were almost up. Having completed the essay tasks for requalification, I’d mostly forgotten about it. Somewhere an email had been sent saying when applicants should expect to hear of the results, but I never jotted it down on my calendar, and so while on my prep period the other day, I thought the time must be approaching soon. Searching through my deleted emails, I found the one that gave the date: it was that very day. And later in the afternoon, I received the news that I could continue to tread water.
Maybe it was the wake from this news, or maybe it was the interview I’d recently listened to with Lucy Calkins, literacy extraordinaire, that got me thinking about a PhD. Maybe it was the realization that I still have a good 15-20 years ahead of me in this career and I might want to branch out more than my current credentials allow me to (although I’m still certain that’s not in administration). Maybe it’s the little smile I get when I imagine being called Doctor—but suddenly I was entertaining an idea that I’d never really considered before.
A few days later, I listened to another episode of Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations. I landed on one with Steven Pressfield about unlocking your creative genius. I’d never heard of Pressfield and I didn’t exactly feel like my creativity was blocked, but something made me hit play.
A few minutes into the podcast, I heard about “Resistance’s Greatest Hits.” This wasn’t a music compilation by an indie rock band, but a list of all the activities in our lives that elicit resistance.
Oprah reads them off one by one: the launching of any entrepreneurial enterprise, any diet or health regimen, any program of spiritual advancement, any activity whose aim is tighter abdominals, any program designed to overcome an unwholesome habit or addiction, education of any kind, any act that entails a commitment of the heart (the decision to get married, to have a child, to weather a rocky patch in a relationship), and the taking of any principle stand in the face of adversity.
According to Pressfield, anybody who is trying to move to a higher level encounters resistance, and, “the more important an activity is to your soul’s evolution, the more resistance you will feel towards it.”
To combat resistance, Pressfield says you must get out of your “little head and into that larger identity.” And what came next was that morsel of wisdom I needed to hear.
Pressfield tells listeners that if they want to paint, to put their body in front of an easel. If they want to write, sit down at a keyboard. And so, by extension, if I wanted to get a PhD, I needed to put myself in a testing room for the GRE, I needed to be ready to take on more student loans, and then I needed to get back on a college campus and sit down in a lecture hall. And if I’m being completely honest, it all sounded a bit nerve-wracking.
“The key thing about resistance is that it comes second…What happens first is the dream.”
Was going back to school a dream of mine? I wasn’t sure, so my quest for information continued as I tried to work out the answer.
I found myself chatting it over with a colleague and my husband and, of course, my mom. And then I met with a couple friends one night, one of whom had gotten her doctorate years ago, and we talked about it over a few glasses of wine.
She told me about her experience: staying up from nine to eleven after her kids went to bed to work on her dissertation. She reminded me that most of the classes would be held on Saturdays or after my work day ended, going from 4 till 8 at night. I thought of the many occasions when I tucked my children into bed and then tucked myself in a few minutes later. Gone would be my 4:30 A.M. workouts. Gone would be the reading of bedtime stories and my presence at weekend soccer games where I cheered on my daughter from the sides. Was that where my heart wanted to be for the next three to five years?
The answer was a resounding No.
But with the recent passing of poet Mary Oliver, I heard—more strongly than ever—her words echoing in my head.
It’s a big question, and I don’t know that I have all the answers, but I do know this: I’m going to start simply by putting my ass where my heart wants to be, and luckily for me, that’s exactly where I am right now.
It’s where I am when I stay in my pajamas on a Sunday to work on a blog. It’s where I am when I crack open a new novel and burrow in my couch. It’s where I am when I play an intense round of Exploding Kittens with my daughters or binge watch Schitt’s Creek with the hubs.
Resistance doesn’t necessarily indicate a fear of moving towards higher ground; resistance can sometimes be our subconscious telling us to stay put, to appreciate the ground currently beneath our feet. After all, it won’t ever be exactly as it is right in this very moment, and that, as my father likes to say, is a beautiful thing.
Once again, I found myself returning to the wisdom of Mary Oliver’s poetry as I realized that, “Sometimes, I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.”
Just for fun though, perhaps I’ll have my kids start calling me Doctor Mom.