Racing to the Finish Line: My Ph.D. Journey

The moment an athlete begins their race there is always a nerve-wracking moment. What is going to happen during the race? Will I be able to finish? What if something goes wrong like I pull a hamstring and cannot complete the race? 

Many questions run through the mind of that athlete. Fear and doubt may attack their confidence. However, for the athlete to successfully finish the race and win the desired gold medal, it will take confidence in what they know to be true, belief that they trained well and are prepared for the race ahead, perseverance during the race when they are tired and feel like quitting, and determination to cross the finish line. Successfully beginning, continuing, and finishing a doctoral program can be similar to the process of an athlete running a race to win that longed-for medal.

Initially, I did not think I was going to apply for my Ph.D. back in 2018. But shortly after I finished my master’s in journalism at Regent University, I decided it was the right decision. With what I wanted to pursue in a career, earning a doctoral degree was going to adequately prepare me for those goals. After praying and speaking with my husband, I made the decision to begin my doctorate. I applied for the program and continued to pray. I am certainly glad that I got encouragement to continue my educational journey into the doctoral program- to pursue my academic race.

Then came the first class: Introduction to doctoral studies. It was a residency where I had the chance to meet many wonderful individuals who were also starting the program. This class set the stage for the rest of the program. I will never forget what the professor told us: “You have nothing to fear.” That was such an encouragement to me because here was this scholar telling me at the beginning of this race that I could make it to the end. My greatest fear was that I could not successfully complete the program. Fear made me feel like I did not have the capacity to take on such an endeavor. However, hearing my professor say, “You will do well,” gave me all the encouragement that I needed and upon reflection, helped me successfully deal with that fear. Later on, continuous support and positive, kind words from my husband were the anchors for my often doubtful soul. 

I truly enjoyed the friendships I built along the way. These friends encouraged me, prayed for me, and sometimes even indirectly helped me continue when I felt tired because it seemed so difficult. These peers were the manifestation of the Scripture, “As iron sharpens iron, so people can improve each other” (New Century Version- NCV). We were all in the same race. 

One of the greatest things that this undertaking has taught me, aside from the importance of building a network of good friends, concerns self-discovery. I discovered my confidence and true self. I discovered that I could deliver well while under pressure. I learned that nothing was to be taken too seriously in life, particularly on this academic journey. Instead, I needed to lighten up: It was never the end of the world if something did not go as planned, like missing that deadline. Professors are there to help you. They understand that you have other commitments and that you are human – you may not always meet the target. They appreciate that you are giving your best. Friends are there, believing in you and affirming your strengths along the way. I have established lifelong relationships with my peers and with the professors who have treated me with the utmost respect and kindness. I believe each did so because they believe that God has sent us to the school for a special purpose.

It is true that the process of completing a doctoral program, my scholastic race, is more than just getting the certificate. It is also about who I am becoming. I remember that idea so clearly from the first class I took. This has been a cornerstone to help me get to where I am now in my doctoral program. I am at the dissertation stage, and I hope to complete the program this spring. While I dream of graduation, I must continue to focus on who I am becoming. I also need to focus on what God is showing me about who I am and about who He has already made me to be.

In this final lap of my race, I must trust God even more. Throughout this Ph.D. journey, I have learned that it is God’s strength enabling me, and it will be by His strength that I complete it. I am determined as I have renewed confidence through God’s Word that “it is better to finish something than to start it…” (Ecclesiastes 7:8- NCV). Like an athlete running the race, I gained confidence in what I know to be true. I believe that I have been trained well for this race. I persevered, even though I felt like “throwing in the towel,” and I am now determined to cross that finish line to receive that much-desired gold medal! I am ready to see my dream come true!