A Reflection: Looking Back on My 2nd Year

Hey loves, it’s been a minute. As we begin a new semester and a new year, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on this past year in my PhD program (year 2) and how far I’ve come from when I started this blog a little less than a year ago. Special thanks to everyone who has supported me from the beginning of time! This is actually my 50th post and I’m so excited to dedicate it as a reflection on the year since I started this blog.

First things first, I feel like I’m in a much healthier place than last year when I first started this blog. Back then, I lost my soul to academia and felt an immense pressure to prove my worthiness to be in the program. I was bogged down with taking classes, teaching undergraduate courses, and keeping up with research. It was extremely overwhelming, and I was committed to being an overachiever, which led to many evenings of working solely on homework, studying, grading papers, or doing research. I let my dedication to succeed in my PhD program completely take over my life – I didn’t spend as much time with friends or family, or make time for myself, or anything else really besides eating and (sometimes) sleeping.

I struggled with the constant failures, setbacks, and rejection that many doctoral students face. However, because I made this program my whole life, it felt more like a personal attack to who I am, and my competency. I started questioning if my intelligence and hard work was enough, because no matter how many hours I put into something, it was still never ‘good’ enough. People in the department exude such an air of confidence and I felt a strong wave of imposter syndrome wash over me. [Imposter syndrome is defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. ‘Imposters‘ suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence.]

PhD programs are extremely competitive (1% acceptance rate – professors handpick their students). Despite my qualifications, I couldn’t help but think I wasn’t ready, or that they made a mistake in accepting me, or that I made the wrong decision going into this field.

After an intense breakdown, where I literally cried in my lab in front of some of my colleagues because I had to skip a bowling social to fix a poster I revised like 17 times, I realized it was time for change. Not just because I love bowling or socializing (I really do lol) but because I didn’t have any balance in my life. I didn’t know who I was anymore and I didn’t make time to do things I loved.

The last thing I wanted was to spend the rest of my 20s slaving away to earn a degree and feel that I wasted my youth on just ONE thing. I needed to diversify my experiences. Sure, it might take me an extra year or so to graduate, but if that means I get to actually live my life while I’m in the program, then its totally worth it!

Now, reflecting on this past year, I’ve been able to accomplish a LOT. I proposed my Master’s thesis, won a $20,000 research fellowship for next year, co-authored 2 published peer-reviewed journal articles, presented at 2 conferences, taught all year and had great reviews from my students, served as co-vice president (now co-president!) for brownbag committee (which included organized speakers for our area and planning interview weekend), and was involved in the diversity committee, for which I’m now the communications chair!

However, I have some accomplishments outside of this program I’m proud of too! I started a business with my handsome Fiancé, spoke at a panel for Women in Medicine, spoke at a Leadership Conference about using social media for social change, helped coordinate projects with Brown in Detroit, worked on fundraisers with friends (e.g., Be the Change project), served as a judge for the social media competition in MIST, and am now in the works of working on another project aiming to raise awareness and educate the women in South Asian/ Muslim communities about sexual health.

I’m in a WAY better place emotionally/mentally than I was before. I’m actually enjoying my program a lot more because I now make time for my family, friends, taking action in the community, baking, playing with makeup, blogging, and indulging in SELF-CARE! I even started wedding planning – wut. To be really honest, as I write all of this down now, I can’t even believe how much has happened in just this past year – but if I can do it, ANYONE CAN! Don’t limit yourself. Here are some words of advice that has guided me:

  1. If you are unhappy, stop complaining about your life and take some action to make change happen. Whining all day and all night about how much your life sucks is not going to make it stop sucking. Take control of your life and DO something about it!
  2. Surround yourself with positive, sincere, genuine friends who care about you and help you grow – cut out any toxic relationships. Quality > Quantity
  3. Set realistic goals to achieve your dreams – I write all of mine down and break it up into even smaller tasks in my planner everyday so that I slowly, but steadily, work toward my end goals. Consistency is key for the long-game. 

With the right positive mindset, life balance, social support, and God on your side, ANYTHING is possible. Can’t wait to see what this next year brings iA!

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Hi, I'm the founder of The PhDream. I'm a second year doctoral student who wasn't satisfied with just sitting behind a desk and writing papers. While my research may have an indirect impact, I wanted to engage more directly with the community and provide a platform to discuss neglected and sensitive issues. Along with that, I try to stay sane in my program by stress baking, glamming up even when I'm down, and sharing my dad-joke captions on the gram -- if only that creativity could translate into my research... Anyways, I'm always looking for contributors, collaborations, and people to eat my zelicious creations, so don't hesitate to reach out or follow me @ZuniJilani :)

One thought on “A Reflection: Looking Back on My 2nd Year

  1. Wow, what a nice summary of achievement.
    Alhamdulillah I am proud too be your mambo, I feel proud to link myself with you and tell my families and friends and tell them about you as my Intelligent, Smart, Brilliant and Loving Sweet Bhangi. I Pray to Al-mighty Allah to help you in every walk of life, and Bless you with His Blessings forever. Aameen


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