Wednesday, November 26, 2014

On the way to a PhD. Or Not!

A friend posted a link to an excellent article titled "Parenting your way to a PhD". At first I was going to just share the article, but then I thought why not write my own story, and maybe I'll kill two birds with one stone (not that I would kill any birds, I love birds. I haven't posted here in a while, and figured I could use this space to share some thoughts. :-) 

So here goes my story...

It's been only a few months into the semester, and how many meltdowns have I had? ( I can't count really). But my family and friends keep motivating me saying, "Everyone goes through it.  It's a process!" And unfortunately, in my household giving up is not an option. 

In the meanwhile, I'm still trying to adjust since, I'm a total Type A.  I think I can do it all. But I'm finding out that it's harder for everyone else to get used to my new schedule.  

One of the questions I get asked almost bi-monthly:

"Honey, why can't we go to my friend's for dinner?  They've been inviting us for the last 2 years!"

When I'm down and think I'm ready to quit I ask a couple of friends for a I-wanna-forget-about-my-whole-life girls night out. I go out for an hour or two, dump all my I'm-gonna-be-a-loser-I-think-I'm- gonna-drop-out-I-am-the-worst-wife-worst-mom-worst-aunt worries on them. Then I... Laugh... Cry...Laugh and cry at the same time (oh yes, it's possible)
Go to sleep... Wake up...and... Repeat! 

Then the next day the question comes...

"Honey, if you have time to go out with your friends why can't we go over to my friends house for dinner?" :-)

Hi, My name is Elif. I'm a Type A and I, I, I can't do it all. I believed that I could do it all for the last 38 years. But I have come to terms that I can NOT do it all.

People have no idea what it means to do a PhD unless they have one. It's like being a mom. You can not explain to someone who has never gone through the stages of pregnancy and delivery or raising kids what it's like to be a mom. They just have to go through it. That's what I'm learning. 

With a household full of PhDs and MDs, and OVER achievers, I've been exposed to what it's like to do a PhD  but NEVER realized what it entails till I started my own journey. 

I'm trying to adjust. Or pretending to. But I've at least learned to be able to say "no" to people right away. 

I've already got my line memorized, in case you wanna ask me for something :-)

It goes something like this...

"My sincere apologies, but I can't. I'm a full time PhD student and am responsible for 7 people in my household as a mom/guardian/aunt/wife/cook/tutor/chauffeur etc (the list seems endless but the "etc" will have to suffice for the rest of my titles), I only have time for school, and family. This is all I can do right now"

Some people think I'm a snob.

Others are sweet, caring and understanding. 

When things get rough, I repeat to myself. "It's a process. It's a process. I'll get through it." 

When things get even rougher I email my sister and she says, "Chill! It's a process, it's a process..."

As I'm trying to rush-in a paper, having gotten only 4 hours of sleep within 48 hours, my daughter walks into the study asking for help with her Arabic homework.

At first I get frustrated, because I'm exhausted, my brain has already given up on me, and to imagine that my brain can think in Arabic... Well... Yah... This is so not happening! 

But my beautiful 13 year old who is trying to translate an ayah from the Qur'an is not at fault. She is up with me at 12:00am trying to end her endless 8th grade homework so she can go to bed too.

I stop. I help her. Give her a kiss good night. And, continue writing.

5:00 am my best friend whatsapps me: "Elif, I didn't see your paper in my email, I panicked, did you send it for me to edit?"

"No. I'm not done yet :-(",  I message her back

Now I'm all emotional because I'm tired, I wanna cry. "What a great friend, she wakes up from her sleep to check on me. It's not even time for Fajr yet. But she's right there with me!"

In fact if it weren't for whatsapp, I'm not sure if I would have made it through the last few months. It's my first semester for God's sake and I'm complaining as if it's my fourth. 

I guess I'll get used to it. Or learn how. And my whatsapp buddies will just keep listening to me complain my way to a PhD :-)))

10:00 am I manage to finish my paper. Shower, get dressed and drive to school to turn in my paper.

I love my Professor, and I love my class. But, why in the world would I have to drive to school during Thanksgiving break, when we don't have class, to physically turn it in to his office? Has he heard of email? :-)

Anyway, I'm just happy I made it there safe and sound and turned it in.  Now I can go on with the rest of my life. "What life?," laughs the voice inside my head :-)


I rush in to Costco to quickly pick up groceries because Ms. Little-I-Can-Do-It-All wants to make a nice Thanksgiving lunch. ("Good luck!" laughs the voice inside my head.)

I speed thru Costco, packed with hundreds of people, throw the groceries into the cart trying not to run people over, and make it to the register. After I hand in my membership card, the man asks.

"Did you get this card today?"

"No?" I reply, thinking, is my membership payment due?

I'm in no mood to converse, but now he got me all curious and I can't help but follow up with, "Why are you asking?"

"Because you're wearing the same clothes in the photo on your card" he says.

"Ha ha ha!," I laugh. Actually, I wear the same clothes every day!" I blurt out. "I got the card 4 years ago!" 

O-M-G-! I so did not say that! I think to myself. I'm too tired to explain to him that I have not worn the same clothes for the last 4 years everyday :-))) But, I just let it go. 


As I sit in the carpool line waiting to pick up my kids (and 2 other families kids) from school, I try to call the library to extend the due date of the books that are due. 

The lady asks for the last 7 digits of my library card.

Since there are way more than 7 digits, I first count the last 7 and begin reading them to her from (right to left, as you would read in Arabic). The librarian says, "But that doesn't sound like anything like our numbers, are you sure you have the right location?".

I laugh with embarrassment. 

"Oops, sorry. Hehehe. When you said last 7 digits, I read them from the end to the beginning." 

Then she asks. "Can I have your name?"

"Yes. It's E-L-I-F. 'F' as in London," I say proudly, only to realize the word 'London' does not begin with an 'F' :-). Since people can never understand how my name is spelled, especially over the phone, I always spell it out as 'E' as in England, 'L' as in London. 'I' as in India, and 'F' as in Florida. But this time I got it all wrong.

I catch myself in time to burst out another embarrassing laugh. 

"Sorry, I meant 'F' as in Florida," I say.

The nice lady extends my books, by the time I reach to the front of the carpool line. It's only 3:30pm and the rest of my day is just beginning :-)


"Honey, my friend just called. He's inviting us over for Thanksgiving dinner. What should I say?"

"But, honey! Remember I called and cancelled our invitation to R's house so we could have Thanks giving lunch at home as a family and maybe watch a movie."

"But we're having lunch. This is a dinner invitation." 


Inhale. Exhale. and Repeat. "It's a process, It's a process..."

And if you care to know, we are going over to my husband's friend's house for dinner. Oh, No, it's not the friend who invited us for Thanksgiving dinner. And it's not the friend who has been waiting for the last 2 years.  It's another friend who invited us in September, but I agreed we could go on the last day of finals, mid December, instead. 

Hi. My name is Elif and I think I'm headed for a PhD. 'D' as in Disaster. :-)

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