Office Hours with Dr. Lacy: I Failed My First Semester!

I Failed My First Semester!

Office Hours with Dr. Lacy


Transcript of Episode:

Hey friends, the time has come to finish your dissertation, graduate and become doctor. Welcome to "Office Hours with Dr Lacy" where we talk about finishing your dissertation with joy and peace. Let's get started on today's episode.

Hi friends! So, today I'm going to be telling you a little bit about my story as a PhD student. I went to the University of Georgia in the College of Student Affairs Administration Program. Um, that is a whole other conversation about exactly what that degree means later. But um, I want to talk to you about my first semester and failing my first semester. Like, um, to say that that semester was a struggle would be a severe understatement. I was just, I wasn't doing well. Um, and I, part of the first semester was required to take our foundations in student affairs course, something like that. I'm not completely sure of the name, but it's a foundation course, right. It was a course where me, any other people that I came in with my cohort members, it was the only class that we were in together that we were not being in with any other people from the program.

And so it was minute for us to be able to not only have a bond as a cohort, but to like help us ease into the program. And this course was with an instructor who had been there for a very long time. He was coming to the end of his career. Um, Indians, we just, I just was not a fan of his teaching style and I'll say it that way and I just felt like he used the classroom as an opportunity to relive his glory days and I didn't understand why I needed to be there, to be a witness to that. Um, and everyone kept saying, you know, you just, it's just part of the process. You just got to go, you listen to her stories, you pretend like you're interested, ask them questions, blah, blah, blah. And I just, if you know me, I've been like this my whole life.


I just feel like it's a complete waste of my time. Um, and I just had no interest. Um, I was also just really struggling to make the adjustment in a new place in a new town. Um, all this stuff that came up for me, like an Undergrad as a first generation college student was also coming back up for me during that semester. So there's a lot of things of course. Um, and I really felt like despite me not being a fan of his style, that I was still trying my very best. Um, but I just didn't get it. I Dunno, it was just like, it's seemed like everyone else was speaking a different language and everybody understood what they were supposed to do in that class or in the whole program. And I just was confused. Um, so I mean I did, I felt like I did what any normal quote unquote normal first year doc student would do.


I took the time to read assignments carefully. I mean, and this material is dry cause it's foundations, it's like history, blah, blah, blah. And I thought we were done with that from a Master's program, but clearly not. Um, I would take like notes and notes, like pages and pages and notes. I would try to think of questions to ask, but I was really like, I mean in his history it happened. It's not like we're going to cover this in the class anyway, so, but I still tried to do my best. Um, but then I would go into the class and I would be speechless. And again, if I'm also generally not a talker, um, especially in class and in my mind, I just remember thinking now I know in the back end they're excuses. But at that time I was like, oh, I would say things like, oh I'm processing and I'm just trying to take it all in.


But really the truth was I was just scared. I was scared that I was gonna say the wrong thing. I didn't want to be wrong, cause it's, it's stakes, right? Like you made it all the way to this phd program and you don't want them to know that, you know, that they made a mistake. Like somebody made a mistake and letting me into the program. And so why would I show up to class and say the wrong thing and confirm that they made a mistake and then they kicked me out of it. It just seemed like everyone else seems so smart and ready to say something. Like everybody always seemed like they always had something to say. And I was just coffee, booze and I just felt like there was something wrong with me. And I did know like what I had that every, what I didn't have that everyone else had.

Um, and I was like, maybe it was because like some of the people in my class, they did their masters program and that same with the same faculty until I was like, oh, maybe they're just more comfortable. They know something. I don't know. Like I kind of felt like everybody got the Phd, like Starter Guide and I missed it or something. And I just felt like, because they knew more what to expect and they already had these preexisting relationships that there was no way for me to catch up and there was nothing I could do. Um, and if for some reason I was called on in that class or you know, didn't fall asleep while he was saying the same story over and over, I would just get really anxious and I wouldn't be able to talk. It was like the words could not physically come out of my mouth and I just, I dunno, I was just at a loss and then I wouldn't say like the middle of the class, like this semester.


I mean this is after weeks and weeks of just Imposter Syndrome, feeling like I suck. I didn't belong. Um, we had to do a paper assignment in the feedback that I not only got from that instructor, but that I get from my advisor was, you can't write, um, you really need to work on your writing. Um, and it's clear that like, you have a long way to go in. The instructor wanted me to meet with him about my paper. That's how bad it was, I guess. And he essentially told me that he didn't understand how I got into the program, even though he was the program coordinator. But I digress. Um, that I honestly didn't have what it took, um, that I clearly didn't care about being the program because I never said anything in class and I didn't listen to other people when they were talking and that my writing was absolutely awful and I needed to get it together or leave.


And I left that meeting like in tears because I felt like no matter how much I tried to defend myself or I have a response to him or try to explain everything that was going on, he just was cold and he just shut me down. And it just seems like he just, it seemed like he just didn't care. He didn't want to hear what I had to say. And so that meeting ended with me in a bathroom stall, completely breaking down in tears. Like I remember I also was sick, I was, had a sinus infection because of all the stress and I just remember feeling like, Yep, it's right. I need to go, I need to leave. Um, and I tried to keep going for the rest of that semester, but that semester ended with me on academic probation because even though I thought I was doing well in my other classes, apparently not, I'm my grades at the end of all my classes did where it's not a passing GPA.


And I went into winter break. I went into winter break just smoking weed every day and even a jar cookie butter from trader Joe's and watching all nine seasons of army wives. I never left out of my room. I didn't talk to anybody. I was just all in my feelings, all depressed and just was feeling like completely hopeless. And, uh, one day a friend calls me, um, and just trying to get, like, trying to figure out like, what, what's going on with me? And he was like, I don't know who this person is right now. Like, I don't know what you're doing. I remember a person who hurt my feelings one time ago. Um, and he said, but even though my feelings were hurt, I had an increased my respect for you. Um, and so we, this friend, we used to date and I think like he came to visit me while I was an Undergrad.


I was studying for something and he was trying to get my attention or trying to get me to go somewhere. And I think as I looked up to him, deadass looked up at him and was like, nothing. And no one would ever come between me and my education, not even you. So I mean, that sounds harsh, but at the moment, I mean, it is what it is. I said it and he was just saying, where is that girl? Where is that person who said that in meant that, where did she go and why is she not fighting? Um, right now in this program? And so I sat back and I thought about it. I mean, I probably smoked again and watch another episode of army wives, but, um, I did, it did start to sit and I start to think about that. And then I just decided in that moment that I'm not going to quit.


Um, this is something that are born in something I've said I always wanted. And even if the people in my program or in my class were smarter than me or has some sort of advantage over me, they were not going to outwork me. Something that I pride myself on, that hard work will beat talent every time. And so I made up in my mind that I was going to do it. And then I did because that next semester I had a 4.0 but I do, I think it's important to talk about not the sole good moments because that's what makes the journey right. And I want to talk about like what this situation taught me, right? So number one, this situation taught me that I'm not a victim and nothing was happening to me before me. So before I told the story about all how, you know, I was so upset about this instructor and that I felt like he was doing this and this and this, but the truth of the matter, he had his phd and he had a whole career in a field that I was trying to get into and he was teaching.

And so he, whether you want to say earn the right or whatever it was his classroom and he could do whatever he wanted to. And it was my job as a student to learn from him because despite what our agreed with him or not, or liked his style or not, he still had something that I was, that I wanted, that I didn't have. And so that meant that was still something to learn from that. And so instead of being a victim mentality of like, oh, he just doesn't like me, um, he's not talking nice to me. I could have stopped and reframed my thinking and said, what can I do? Or what am I not doing or what do I need to do to pull it together? Now I'm also not trying to make, um, I'm not trying to belittle the experience cause it was really hurtful or to say that I shouldn't have felt hurt.

Yes, it was hurtful and I wish it could have been different. And at the same time you are responsible for you just like I'm responsible for me and the, it doesn't serve us or it doesn't serve me to think about, oh poor me. Look what they're doing to me. Because at the end of the day, that's not going to help me. That wasn't gonna help me become doctor. It was going to help me get my phd. And so that is something like I carry with me continuously to this day of you're not a victim and you're not a victim. Nothing is happening to you. And maybe if you reframe that thought and said, maybe this is happening for me, because it was, that was a big part of me. Going through that and crying in the bathroom was a big part of me tapping back into something that I lost about how important his goal was for me and that I was going to have to work hard.

And just because I've been smart and successful in school up to this point didn't mean that I didn't have to work in this phd process and that the race was just getting started. So that's the first one. The second one was, the second thing I learned was I was at fault for that first semester and I could have, it could have been different if I wanted to be so similar to the first thing about not being a victim. I a true believer that your life, the state of your life, what it is, how it is now is a direct reflection of the thoughts and beliefs that you have. So I believe your thoughts control your emotions, which control your actions, which determine your results in life. So if your academic experience is not going the way you want it to go is because you don't believe it's possible for people like you.

I'll say it again. If you, if your experience, your academic experience is not going to way you want it to go, it's because you don't believe it's possible for people like you. I do not believe I was good enough to be in the program. I believe that I was only allowed because of a mistake or to meet some sort of quota or some sort of favor to somebody. I didn't believe I belonged. So because I thought that way constantly and I believe that way constantly. It, it made me feel like shit and that's how I showed up. So because I felt that way, I behave that way. So because I felt like I didn't belong when I came into the classroom, I didn't talk cause I didn't feel like I belonged there and because I didn't talk and engage and do what I needed to do inside, I didn't do well in that class.

However, that next semester shows when I made a decision that it didn't matter if I belonged there and that I was going to do the work necessary. I showed up that way to do whatever was necessary and I got the results of having a 4.0 GPA for that second semester and when I decided that it was, I was going to keep going and make it no matter what it took things change. It was the same program! It was the same cohort members. It was the same instructor. The only thing that changed was my thoughts and my beliefs. And if you want things to be different than you need to start with your own thoughts and beliefs.

And then the third thing was self care is about self responsibility. So I did desperately needed self care and I don't mean self care and uh oh like the capitalistic way of going to do the things and by other things. So no you don't need another planner, you don't need to go and buy another outfit or whatever. If you want to do those things, fine. That's not what I mean when I say self care of me. Self care is about taking responsibility for yourself. It's self care is also about thinking about who you are surrounding yourself with. Are The people that you surround yourself with, are they helping you to practice self care and responsibility? Because think about if you're spending your days complaining and whining and saying, Oh, poor me. Those very people that you're talking to, the people who are actually willing to listen to that and not correct you on that, they are willing to let you continuously complain about your program or doubt yourself or make excuses. They're not their not your real friends and or they're not winners. When I say winners, like people who are serious, people who are moving through this doctoral process but ease, they're not getting stuck on the complaining and the whining and the making excuses and the doubting they're doing what they need to do. They're taking responsibility, they're taking care of themselves and doing what they need to do to get the results that they want.

And it's not necessarily about like caring about you or that they're mean or they're selfish. They just don't have time for the bullshit. And you obviously want to stay in the bullshit because you keep complaining and whining and doubting. You keep saying poor you. So like me. That's why I really have any friends. That's why the other people in my cohort probably didn't want to. You don't really talk to me. And it's not about fitting in. And what I want you to hear and this message is the morning you stay in self pity and victim hood, and do you want to complain? Instead of putting that same energy into figuring out what it is that you need to do to get the results that you want, the more you'll continue to just have results in your life. So you have to decide and commit to showing up. That is the ultimate form of self care, taking responsibility for yourself in your life. So take responsibility, take daily action and repeat because no one is coming to save you. You need to save you. So thank you for joining me on today's episode. Remember tagging you on Instagram at @MarvetteLacy and let me know what your thoughts are. And so next time until next time do something to show yourself some love. I'll talk to you next week. Bye for now.

End of the Year Reflection for Your Best Year Ever

Have Your Best Year Ever

We are going to take some time to reflect and set intentions for the first part of this series. Now, I know some of you are probably like, but I'm tired. The semester is ending, and you may feel exhausted. I used to take the first few weeks of summer off to rest and watch TV. I wouldn't prepare for the summer or the fall. Therefore, I was scrambling as summer classes started.

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And then I'm back to where I was feeling stressed out, overworked and feeling like I could never catch up. And maybe you've said to yourself, "I could catch up if I had a couple of days just to get organized. I could figure out what I needed to do."

I've got to tell you that you will get those days. You probably have those days now, and you probably are still not organizing yourself. Your lack of progress has nothing to do with the time that you think you need. Your progress is completely depended on your thoughts. I spend the most time with my clients on their thoughts and beliefs. Once we can clean up the mind stuff, the anxiety and exhaustion dramatically reduce.  

You're probably wondering if you need this degree? You're probably would just over it; especially if you've had two to three years in your program. You're probably really feeling the exhaustion and burnout.

I believe that it doesn't have to be that way. You can finish your program and maintain your health, joy, and sanity. You can do this process. Sure, is it going to require some time and energy? Absolutely, but it does not have to require you to give up your whole being.

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4 Steps

I create a guide for this first part to help you through this. Click here to follow along.

Part 1: How would you describe this past academic year?

Take 5 to 10 minutes in the next couple of days and reflect on this past academic year.

  • What went well?

  • What didn't go so well?

  • How did you feel over this past year?

  • What are the things that you are most proud of?

  • What are the things that you wish would have done better?

  • What are some projects that you never got to but wanted to finish?

I want you to think about all of those things and brain dump for 10 minutes. Just dump all of whatever thought that comes to your head.

Sit this brain dump to the side after you have dumped everything you could think of on the paper.

Part 2: What does it mean to be the ideal Ph.D. student?

Think about all those people who seem to be excelling in their Ph.D. program. You know those people who seem to have it all together! Imagine what their lives are like and what helps them to be so successful. Imagine if you were the same as them.

If you were the perfect Ph.D. student:

  • How would you behave?

  • What would you do every day?

  • How would you show up?

  • How would you be in class?

  • How would you be in writing?

  • What would you be doing throughout your day?

  • What would be some things that you would accomplish if you were completely caught up and you were feeling refreshed?

  • Knowing what you know now with all the time that you've been in the program, who would you be?  

Take another 5 or 10 minutes and dump the answers out to these questions.

And then the third part, this may be the most challenging part.

Part 3: What do you want?

We often get caught up in thinking about what is going wrong or what we want to change. Instead, we don't give ourselves enough time to think about what we want instead.  The third part will provide you with the perfect opportunity to reflect on your goals during this time.

What do you want?

Well, you may say I want to graduate and finish and become a doctor. What about the time in between; before you get to graduation, throughout this process, throughout this program, what do you want?

  • Do you want to have a certain amount of publications?

  • Do you want to get physically fit?

  • Want to have a good friend group?

  • Do you want to be nominated for Dissertation of the Year?

  • Do you want a specific type of assistantship?

  • Do you want to switch from a full-time job?

By the end of this process, by the time you graduate, what do you want?

Take time to answer this question.

Part 4: Who do you have to be to get what you want?

You may need to go to the second part or even reflect on the first part to answer this question. Once you examine what you want, then think about you have to be to get that?

Sit down and reflect on these questions because there is no way to set good intentions or goals without doing this part first. The answers to these questions will be you why, your compelling reasons that will help you complete your dissertations. Especially in those hard moments when it is challenging to write, you will need compelling reasons to help you sit down and write.

You may need a couple of days, and you may need to write some things down. Fill out the form below to get your copy of the guide!

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Becoming Doctor: How My Four-Year-Old Self Prepared Me For My PhD

Becoming Doctor: How My Four-Year-Old Self Prepared Me For My PhD

When they announce, “Congratulations, Doctor!” You will feel weird on the inside. Your mind will take a few moments (maybe a few days) to register that it’s over. You did it. You defended your dissertation. You won’t instantly feel over the moon. You will feel the same way you did the day before. You will be a little confused. You’ve been waiting for your whole doctoral journey for this moment. You’ve dreamt about this moment.