So yeah, that thing that I’ve been working toward for the last three and a half years finally came to a head today when I defended my dissertation. It’s been about nine hours, and I’m still in shock. I can’t believe that I, Mindy “Severe Imposter Syndrome” Kinnaman, am a doctor. Crazy.
I’m not fully done with things. I’ll have to make some edits to my dissertation and get them sent over to the graduate office to upload by January 9, but the heaviest lifting is behind me. And I still can’t believe it.
There is a reason why this is a shock. A couple actually. I mean, I grew up in poverty, the second of five kids to parents who had dropped out of high school. The only way I was going to college, according to my mom, was if I busted my butt and got as many scholarships as I could. So, that’s what I did. I know the statistics. I wasn’t supposed to succeed. But it helps to have a mom who threatens to ground you whenever your grades drop below an A, even when you’re in college. That’s how you graduate with honors.
With my bachelor’s degree, I did something I could be proud of, and I thought that my family would be proud of me as well. Some of them were. I wish I could say that all of them were. Not long after I finished, one of my cousins on my dad’s side told me, “Wow, I can’t believe one of Paul’s kids actually did something like that.” Thanks for your faith in me.
That sentence stuck with me for years. I’m sure it wasn’t meant to be dismissive, but it definitely came across that way. All of my hard work and accomplishments were brushed away in an instant by that one off-hand comment. Now, I’m not a competitive person by nature (unless we’re talking trivia – AEC Awesome 4-eva), but something about that statement became fuel for me. Because of those words, I went out and get something that not even that cousin had: a master’s degree.
But that wasn’t enough for me. With StrengthsQuest, two of my top Strengths are Learner and Achiever (technically, I have 3 Strengths that are all about learning and acquiring knowledge – NERD ALERT). When it comes to education, I want to learn all I can, and that meant that I needed to go for the gold. I needed the doctorate to round out my education. I wanted to learn as much as I could about higher ed, and especially the community college, and I wanted to stick it to that cousin for good.
Of course, I don’t speak to those relatives anymore, so who knows if that cousin even knows how far I’ve gone since that day. That’s fine. I’m happy with who I am. I’ve come a long way from that girl who fought like hell to get into college. And now, I’m Dr. Mindy Kinnaman.