It came out of nowhere and hit me hard. I realized why I never finished my dissertation and thus will have spent four plus years in grad school to earn the label ABD (all but dissertation). It turns out that I never really cared about my topic. It was not mine. It was something my advisor thought I should write, and since I did not have a better idea, I gave it a shot.
Throughout school I had muscled through papers I did not enjoy. This time, however, it was just too much time and work for me to push through. My advisor had a vision for what he wanted me to write, and It did not come easily to me. I enjoyed the background reading somewhat and I really did like the archival work, but I could not write the dissertation.
I was teaching part-time and writing, but I found any reason to work on my teaching and not my writing. I thought I needed the proverbial bucket of glue to keep myself at my desk. What I really lacked was passion.
Through the avoidance of writing, I discovered what I truly love. My passion is teaching. And by teaching I mean working with students to help them learn and grow – not standing in front of them showing them what I know. I never was great at the college lecture model. I love history; reading the stories of people and their choices is endlessly interesting to me. But I am passionate about teaching. I gravitate to articles about teaching and learning. I try new techniques. I think about my teaching a lot. This blog is evidence of that. I am able to get into the zone where I lose track of time and just feel so alive and full of purpose. I never really felt that way when I was attempting to be a scholar.
My dissertation was my advisor’s passion, not mine. I have followed my mother’s advice from when I was growing up when she told me to do what I loved and I would end up loving what I do. It took me a little while to sort it out, but now I have. My new challenge is to take the next step and empower my students to learn through their passions and do their work, not mine.