The questions driving me right now

I read Ravynn K. Stringfield’s How I Became a Scholar of Black Girl Fantasy and felt energized. I felt energized specifically by how she found role models who were doing the work she wanted to do, how she came to terms with being able to be a scholar AND a writer of other genres.

I attended her class The Scholar’s Guide to Writing & Publishing Creative Nonfiction and she talked about pursuing questions. She talked about that in her essay, too.

And I thought, what questions motivate me?

I went back to my PhD personal statement. The question motivating me there was broad. It was basically “How do Connected Learning in school libraries?” Meme style.

I drafted it in 2014. I have changed a lot in the last 7 years. Connected Learning has changed a lot in the last 7 years.

And I’m still delighted by people loving things and all the amazing learning that comes from that, but… I don’t know. I don’t feel like I’m interested in that set of questions right now.

I love reading about affinity spaces.

I really loved my dissertation topic.

But now? What now? I wrote my proposal before COVID-19 was well-known.

I defended my dissertation when there seemed to be hope on the horizon: I was freshly fully vaccinated and things were looking up.

I’m despairing about a lot now.

I’m also jazzed about the possibility of taking some time to be a writer.

But a writer of what?

I don’t know.

I’ve been banging my head against WHAT NOW?! as if it’s a puzzle I can solve if I just look at or play with it long enough but I think I’m not there. Doing all the parachute-color-style exercises isn’t what I need right now; it just leads to frustration and exhaustion.

I did a couple Self-Employed PhD sessions with Jennifer Polk back when I was still working on the dissertation. I knew that I could go a lot of possible directions with either traditional or self-employment. I said so. People said “So what’s the problem?” I said “Well I have limited time and energy so I need to pick one to try first.” People said “Well what do you want to do?”

I said:

I WANT TO REST.

I want. To. Rest.

My dissertation has been fully submitted since mid-May. I officially graduated on May 16, I think.

I have been “resting” for 3 months.

But “resting” has meant caring for my son and drumming up client work. It’s meant applying for jobs. It’s meant presenting for both professional and personal endeavors. It’s meant figuring out how to safely get my kid into preschool so I can work. It’s meant agonizing over the fact that while I am incredibly lucky and privileged to be in a position to take time to figure out what’s next, I hate the idea of my husband paying my student loans. Partly because I fear his resentment.

Partly because like… what do I have all these degrees for if all I do is sleep?

Some of what I’ve been doing has been home ownership management. Lots of logistics.

I do not feel rested.

A lot of things happened over the course of my PhD in my family and personal life, in addition to the world being what it has been since 2015. Listing it really bums me out so just trust me that it’s been A LOT and it has taken a toll. And when I look at it all written out, as I did privately for myself last night, I think:

NO WONDER I AM SO TIRED.

So the questions that are driving me, for the foreseeable future, honestly, are:

  • What do I HAVE to do to care for myself, my family, and my home?
  • What feels good?
  • What heals me?
  • What energizes me?

Those are all the questions I can handle right now.

Kimberly Hirsh, PhD @kimberlyhirsh