Lessons Learned as a Black Woman in Grad School​

Humility is defined as “a modest or low view of one’s importance; humbleness.” It is a trait that I believe is necessary to have in all domains of life. From my personal experience, it takes one being humbled in order to become humble -- and I can speak on this very well. My entire doctoral journey has been quite humbling, to say the least. Many things have not gone as planned, many things have not gone my way, there have been lots of tears, frustration, and “why me” moments but it has all been necessary. It’s taken me a while to get to this place, but honestly, I am appreciative of these experiences because they have all become important life lessons.


Since I’ve been in my doc program, I have been navigating the challenge of being assertive but not aggressive, outspoken but not too curt, nicely standing my ground without being a pushover or God forbid being labeled the “angry Black woman.” It's a constant struggle of wanting to remain true to myself and being forced to assimilate to the culture and pressure of being viewed as "safe" and "agreeable." When I tell you it’s hard, man it is hard. It’s already difficult being a graduate student but adding on the layers of being Black AND a woman makes it ten times harder. Yeah, being a PhD student is hard but being a Black woman in a white dominated program/field at a Predominantly White Institution is EXHAUSTING. Many people don’t speak on their experiences, but it happens to other students of color and women of color at many universities all over the country. What completely blows my mind is that it wasn’t until I began my PhD program and moved to this town that I experienced blatant racism and oppression. I’ve firsthand witnessed institutional racism. I am extremely opinionated, assertive, and outspoken, so these characteristics have definitely made my experience more challenging, but I am learning along the way. Throughout this journey, I have had to learn and am still learning how and when to pick my battles because every battle does not need to be fought. Every thought does not need to be voiced. As someone who is very passionate about many things, I have learned to just sit back and ride the wave. As I prepare to enter my fourth year in my program, one of the greatest lessons that I’ve learned so far is humility.


Although I cannot guarantee that this is it for my lesson in humility during my PhD journey, I am almost positive that I will experience more moments like this in my lifetime, and that’s okay because these experiences have prepared me for future situations that may arise. There’s a blessing in every lesson and I truly believe that God allows us to experience certain things for a reason.


Romans 12:3 (KJV) resonates with me because it states, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”

I choose to share my story so that another person can learn from my experience in hopes of having a smoother, less rocky path. To my fellow Black women trying to navigate your Black womanhood in white spaces, I see you, I understand you. The best advice I can give is this: don’t dim your light but don’t take yourself too seriously. Do what you have to do to get what you want and need. Try to find a nice balance and be humble, sis.


Peace, love, & blessings,

TJL

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©2020 by Taylor J. Langley.