You don’t start a doctorate if you don’t love your field. Passionately, intensely, and deeply. A doctorate is a vocation, of sorts, in the monastic sense of the term, but the conversatio mori is in the pursuit of one’s discipline.
No matter the debate on degree and grade inflation, getting a doctorate is hard work. We don’t just sit on our asses all day long and think lofty thoughts. Most of us work full-time, come home and then pour over our research. We don’t get evenings and weekends off. We don’t get breaks for holidays. Some of us have children to care for, or significant others to pay attention to. Our opus Dei is the never-ending stream of research, and our lectio divina is the latest article out of our discipline’s journal.
But more importantly than research, our job is one of witness. And I don’t mean the kind of browbeat-the-other-into-submission that TV evangelists mean by the word “witness.” I’m talking about a kind of sacred attention to the other. It’s a kind of attention where the boundaries between teacher and student dissolve. We teach with our lives.
Sometimes the seed takes, sometimes it doesn’t. All the whining and wrangling over tenths of grade points somehow becomes worth it when you sense that faint glimmer in another person, when they get what you’re saying. And in that instant, they glimpse the love and devotion you have for your field, the love that lead you to grad school in the first place.
And that moment makes it all worth it.