the premise for this blog post came to me as i was washing my hair last night. it’s been a rollercoaster of a week and it’s only wednesday. right? i think it’s wednesday. lemme check, hold on. yup. okay it’s wednesday. and yes i ended up publishing this on a tuesday but work with me here. but honestly it should be friday by now. it’s been a rollercoaster week. one that has been heavily laced with doubt and fear and sweaty palms. the week graced me with a lot of doubt and the imposter syndrome could be felt in ever pulse of my body. it was an overwhelming week. and by the time i made it to the end, i had tears at the base of my eyes. it was this weird mixture. of accomplishment but it was heavily mixed with failure and disappointment. i kept repeating to myself over and over again- ‘you are doing this and that’s enough’. two percent of the global population makes it out with a terminal degree. the final one. the end of all degrees. published. hooded. a doctor. but the road there. man, it’s paved but it ain’t paved well. lots of holes and gravel and ugliness. a lot of criticism. a lot of tears. a lot of go back and fix it. a lot of revisions. not a lot of sleep. a lot of caffeine. and sure, i have been a student my whole life. quite literally. but becoming a doctor. it’s something entirely different. and don’t get me wrong; this isn’t the first time that doubt and i have gone head to head in the ring. she’s been living in my head since i was eight. weighing heavily anytime i even remotely pull my head up from underwater. but i keep reminding myself that this jouney is also remarkable. much like the roads i just rode through. much like the storms i just sailed through. remarkable. and so it’s no surprise that when i woke up this morning- i was overwhelmed with emotions. crying and yet feeling accomplished. but also feeling like it’s impossible but feeling it’s possible. and i laid there in my hotel on campus. for over two hours, deep in my feelings. with a to do list about eight miles long and a flight to catch. but there was the doubt, reaching out with her vicious claws. sinking me back into this place. a place laden with feeling like taking the next steps would be physically impossible. i laid there for two hours just taking the whole experience in. let me tell you, it was rough. day one was twelve hours of information. with a mask on. in a classroom. of strangers. day two brought sweaty palms after a sleepless night. two years worth of work laid out on the table. a potential chair reading through my work. questions. thoughts. criticism. a topic change. a methodology change. you can’t be married to this study, alix. you just can’t. you have to untie yourself and figure it out. i stared at my closed macbook til lunch. tears pulsing at the back of my eyes. my throat full of sobs. i could barely think straight or see straight. i dug my nails into my palms. i scratched more notes down. i cried in a bathroom stall. and even though i was in arizona, in a different time zone: doubt had hitched a ride and made her way out to the desert too. my professors drive home this one sentence- ‘your opinion doesn’t matter. i know that sucks. but it doesn’t matter. you aren’t an expert’. hard to hear. that right now, i am simply fighting to become one. an expert. a doctor. a somebody. by tuesday night, i was on the phone with my husband. crocodile tears flowing down my cheeks. ‘i haven’t earned my place here. i don’t deserve to be here. i don’t belong here.’ yes, you do. that’s what he said to me. yes, you do. you wouldn’t be there if you didn’t deserve to be. you worked hard and you made it. you did that. it’s supposed to be hard. that’s why no one else is doing it. and by wednesday, my head was clear and i worked for twelve hours straight. i said goodbye to twenty seven beautiful research materials. ones that had been annotated and vetted. i erased two thirds of my seventy two page literature review. i downloaded the new methodology powerpoint and guzzled fifty four ounces of caffeine. and i did the same thing on thursday. and by friday, i woke up anxious as all hell. and at quarter to nine, it was time. i had sweat through my linen pants and could barely look anyone in the eye. eighteen strangers with their eyes on me. and the truth is, it was totally fine. my research was fine. my presentation fine. some areas that need work. some that are flawless. but that’s the point. to come here with everything and leave with it packaged differently. and that’s hard to grasp sometimes. that the creation you’ve brought has been picked apart and labeled. it’s been criticized and torn in big places. it pushes you into feeling small. imperfect. criticism is one of the very first things they discuss in a doctoral setting. that you have to be able to take it. the good and the bad. the big and the small. the shreds that you get left with.
and honestly, it probably feels like this overwhelming because everything else about me has been chiseled down to nothing. the ongoing hide and seek game that’s happening with my identity is just cycling with no end in sight. and some of my biggest fears lay square in front of me. failure and disappointment. recurrence and backtracking. the fear of giving up or not doing enough. not being strong enough or smart enough. the loneliness. fear of being in my own head too much. the fear of letting myself down. the fear of not making it to the finish line. i have reached a point in my life that i can’t look past twenty four hours. it feels too big and too vast for me. my brain has changed entirely. loud noises bother me. too many people talking at once makes me want to throw up. i can’t listen to music while also listening to a person speak. i can’t listen to music with words while driving. i can’t process more than one thing at a time. i also can’t gauge when i will not be in pain or be tired. and the world doesn’t stop. there is no rest for the wicked. there is no rest for those doing remarkable things. and so i continue to rise. and it’s hard. really hard. to look doubt straight in the face, with sweaty palms and a twirling stomach. to rise to the challenge every single day. to cry into your sixtieth page of notes. to look at yourself in the mirror and form the words ‘i can do this. i am doing this’ over and over again. because when i jumped head first into this program in twenty nineteen, a lot of people doubted me. some called me nuts. some said ‘are you sure?’ and while those comments stayed with me until recently, i continue to realize that it is not about anyone else. it’s about me. i am remarkable. doing something hard after doing something hard after doing something hard. shaping who i am in spite of adversity. tackling this doctoral degree and writing a manuscript as i enter six months cancer free after battling and surgery and a deadly virus. sometimes being this pillar of strength; this tower against all the odds- it can be really hard to stand tall all the time. there is almost an expectation to root yourself and ground yourself so your strength is what is seen. but it’s a lot. to stand unwaveringly during the hardest moments in life. when it feels like everyone is watching. but healing is something that is quite incredible. it’s dark for long periods with glimpses of glittering light. it’s going forward and sometimes falling back. it’s the highs and lows and bumps and stumbles. it’s what everyone is hoping for and it honestly takes forever. but it too is a remarkable thing. to watch the body you once thought to have betrayed you, show up for you- every single day. and it’s remarkable to see more of the light sometimes, even if it doesn’t stay too long. it’s remarkable to continue each day, even when life has been raining on your parade. it’s remarkable to still be here. to have not given up. to still be here. building it all up from the rubble. it’s remarkable to still be here. with mixed emotions, slow healing, exhaustion, fear, anxiety and sadness. it’s remarkable to still be here. staring at the world ahead and knowing that there might be pain there too. knowing that healing isn’t linear. knowing that we still have a ways to go.
but going forward anyways. that’s fucking remarkable. because even in my darkest moments, i continue to rise. even when i can’t get out of bed, i continue to rise. through tears and healing and all that this mess has brought me- i continue to rise. because the way i see it, every damn step is pretty remarkable.
you are remarkable. and so am i. and that’s something to celebrate. that’s something to shout about. that’s something pretty incredible.
don’t forget it, babe. xoxo.