Tag Archives: doctoral degree

How I Ate My Elephant

ForkQuestion: How do you eat an elephant?  Answer: One bite at a time.

In the late 1990s, I told a friend that I was planning to go to graduate school and she told me that I’d obviously lost my mind. She said it was insanity to undertake my plan to take one course at a time while I worked and raised my children so that I could go from bachelor’s degree to doctorate. Instead, she suggested that I join a book club. My friend told me, too, that I’d be in my 50s by the time I’d be done, as though that would be a tragedy. Well, she was right about that much. I graduated 11 years later with my doctorate at the age of 53. But you know what? I was hoping to be 53 that year either way. I figured that if I was going to live to be 53 that I’d rather be 53 with a doctorate than to be 53 without one. And of course, I was right.

You can’t imagine the pride I felt when I walked into my graduation ceremony in May of 2010. There I was, decked out in my academic robes from head to toe, marching before my children and husband to the strains of Pomp and Circumstance, to take a seat in the front row of a huge graduation. More than 8,000 people packed the arena. My children witnessed their mother being called to the stage. They heard my name announced. And they watched me as I was hooded and as I accepted my diploma. Would I do it all again? In a heartbeat.

They say that the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. After 11 years of graduate school, I can say that this is true. The key for me was not to put all of my focus on the enormity of my elephant. If I’d done that, I’d have probably given up along the way, or, as my friend suggested, I might have joined a book club instead. Focus on the bites that you can manage, just as I focused on one course at a time. If you stick with it, you’ll find a way to eat your elephant just as I did mine — trunk, tail, and all. – Dr. Laura Hills, President, Blue Pencil Institute, www.bluepencilinstitute.com