Friday, April 05, 2013
I'm finding that as I get back into running, when I am out, that time becomes a time for peace, thought and reflection. Distractions are stripped away. I am alone. I go into my own, personal space.
Today I mulled over my research, and how difficult it has been for me to sit down and write about the results. I think part of the problem is that I was far too close to the material - I worked to analyze a program that I also carried out with my students. I worked with the project for a total of four years, three of which I was also working with a foundation to analyze it, and for two of those years, I ONLY worked with students involved in the program. Day and night, at work and at home.
Another roadblock, I have realized, was that the results of the study have not been what I expected, nor did several aspects of the evaluation proceed as I had hoped. At many times throughout, it was immensely frustrating, and it was easy to lose sight of the bigger picture and even ignore problems or issues in the hope that they would resolve themselves.
However, I have come to realize that thanks to this time away from the program (I switched schools and type of education in September) and a certain distance from the research, I am now better able to perceive the results in a more objective manner. I can remove myself from the emotional turmoil surrounding the program and scientifically examine how and why the study proceeded in the way that it did. I can see and learn from my mistakes.
After all, I reminded myself today, this is the first time I have undertaken a project of this magnitude. My Honors Thesis and my Masters Thesis were nothing compared to this - 80 some pages based on scant fieldwork and ample literature review. This study comprises two academic years, nearly 1,000 subjects, 11 research assistants and 16 schools. It is normal for me to feel at times overwhelmed, and to feel the immensity of the task that still lies ahead.
However, much has been done. I have written reports, so many reports. I have made peace with my results. I have accepted that the learning process trumps the outcome, because, after all, this is my PhD thesis - I am not yet a professional researcher.
Another positive outcome from this process is my recognition that I can no longer overcommit. It is not healthy. It creates a cycle of chronic stress. I must learn when to say no, and how to say no graciously. I think I say yes all too often out of the fear that my negative response would mean a missed opportunity, a closed door. After all, my watchword for years has been kairos, that intersection between destiny, opportunity and decision. But perhaps kairos has a flipside - the ability to recognize which opportunities are NOT important and which opportunities we can allow to pass by. I must resist the temptation to say "It is too good to pass up" or "what if it never appears again?" I must trust myself to be wise enough when to say no.
So here is the take away message for me tonight. Learn to enjoy the process. Accept that mistakes and unexpected outcomes occur to teach us lessons that we need to learn. Stop over-extending yourself and setting traps for yourself. Yes, aim high, dream big, plan for success, but promise less, commit less, focus more, live more.
Do this, this thesis for you, for yourself, just as you are committing to a healthy lifestyle for yourself. Let its lessons serve to guide you in the coming years. Allow it to shape you and make you better for the experience. Work through the pain, the anguish of not "getting it right." Allow the uncertainty to flow through you. Work to the end and then step back and be proud.