The end of a chapter.

My time has flown by! It seems I have not blogged in almost a year.  I am sure my adoring fans missed me. 😉 There were many times I wanted to sit down and post an entry but all the words and energy was poured into the big book (aka Dissertation).

But to be really honest, one of the main reasons I stopped blogging was because about this time last year half of the purpose and inspiration for this blog was hanging on a thread. It was at that time it became apparent that the dream of becoming “Mrs. C.” was no longer in the cards. For the girl who dreamed about her “happily ever after”,  I didn’t know how to react to the news. So I did what every blog out there tells you NOT to do, I ignored and denied the reality of my fallen relationship.

Even though the pain ate at me each and every day, I would do my best to bottle up my hurt, my anger and the broken pieces of my heart and soul and put all my efforts into my dissertation. I even selfishly asked C. to hold on and keep me happy until I became Dr. Lani. But that didn’t last long. No matter how much we tried, it was hard and heart wrenching to keep going.

I couldn’t tell people we were done. How do you accept something you don’t really understand? How do you let go of something you had for 7 years? How do you move on from something you don’t want to leave behind?  All these questions haunted me this past year. And I continually chose to ignore them.

Despite the internal and emotional turmoil, I managed to finish my dissertation. I successfully defended in April and graduated on May 8, 2015. But officially becoming Dr. Lani San Antonio was the happiest and saddest moment of my life to date.

During graduation weekend, I was surrounded by so much love and joy in my life. So much family and friends from near and far came to celebrate this occasion. There was a noticeable lightness about me…a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. But the lightness wasn’t just because I was done with this degree, it was because I knew that I was finally ready to accept that it was over between me and him and start to let go.

But despite the acceptance, I still felt the pain. I knew that a piece of me was missing. The person who championed me the whole time was not there. The person I dreamt for so long about running into his arms in my cap and gown was not there. And it was that moment I sadly realized that sometimes achieving a dream means you have to let go of something else. And in this case, it was clear what dream was pushed aside.

Make your list.

I am not the kind of person that has one list and sticks to it. Most times, I am operating off of four to five different lists, never really having the satisfaction most people get when they cross off a whole list of tasks (nor do I seek that feeling).

I’m the type of person that has the desk or wall full of post it notes with a bunch of thoughts, quotes and reminders. And when it comes to journals, I have a quote journal, a lyrics journal, a travel journal, online blog…you get the picture.

Despite my scattered thoughts, there is one list that has stood the test of time. I wrote this list about seven years ago at the inspiration of my two girlfriends, J & Martyne. During one of our regular wine nights, they told me about an activity they did where they listed all the qualities they wanted in their ideal guy. Since I was still somewhat in a “relationship” with my college boyfriend at the time, I was not really looking. But I was at a point in my life where I was unhappy with him and knew that he probably wasn’t the one for me. So one slow day at work, I let it out. I typed ALL the things I wanted in a man. I produced a document with almost 40 qualifiers ranging from “considerate” and “educated” to specific things like “knows how to BBQ” and “understands I’m cheesy but laughs and accepts it”.

Yes, I was serious. I shared the typed list with my girls and they laughed at how detailed, organized and ‘out of nowhere’ this list was. But this list was important because in many ways, it showed what I knew I wanted and needed in life but sadly, also showed how DJ did not measure up to it. So despite the jokes, Martyne’s mother pointed out to my girls that sharing this list and taking it seriously, I was telling the Gods out there I was ready for that person to come into my life.

And a few weeks later…I met C. We met at a party that I attended at the last minute, somewhat unwillingly. And as I got to know more about him, I realized that he actually met all those things on my list (except the BBQ one – still working on that!). When I realized this, I knew God was listening and as I look back, I am glad that my heart was ready to accept him in my life.

Now, 7 years later, 3 different cities and 4 different apartments…even though the list often gets buried under papers and in different boxes, it always resurfaces at a time when I need it to remember what I desire in a partnership and what is truly important. Even now, with everything I know about C. and about myself, I wouldn’t change or add anything.

And as our relationship is going through a difficult “season”, I bring this list out and put it right in the center of my home to remind me of what I desire in a relationship. Maybe C. has moved on and doesn’t meet this list anymore. Maybe he needs a reminder of what I need. Regardless, whether C. or not – someone meets this list. Often times we are tempted and distracted by flashy things when we need to focus and remember what is truly important in our lives. So to the spirit gods out there, I am ready and won’t settle for less.

Doctoral Student Networks

Most times when you think of doctoral student programs, most people don’t think about the friendships they will make with their fellow students. After all, that person in the cubicle next to you or in class is often seen as your competitor…for research funding, attention from your advisor, potential job, etc. I would hear horror stories from law and medical school students about how people would rip pages out of books in the library to gain an edge over other students…and my sister totally confirmed this as she reflected on her own law school experience. And the reality is that when it comes to doctoral programs, a good amount of the people you start with won’t finish with you. If there is one thing I have learned about doctoral programs is that its not like undergrad and even masters level graduate programs. In those programs, the student population and their lives are pretty homogeneous. This is not true in doctoral level graduate programs…students come from all over and are dealing with a multitude of issues because the reality is, for most doctoral students – their is life outside of their program and sadly, life continues.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend a classmate’s wedding. There were several of us from our doctoral program in attendance. It was so great to spend the long weekend with them celebrating one of our own. When I started at Clemson, I was part of one of the first cohorts that started to accept more full time doctoral students.  As a part time student, I was often left out of some of the knowledge sharing that was occurring down the hall among the doc students offices.  However, despite this, I made an effort to get to know my full time peers and several of us from different cohorts over three years really gravitated towards one another and created a very non-competitive, supportive (academically and socially), cohesive network. This network has been so central in my progression as a doctoral student. So many of our group graduated in May and now only a few of us are still continuing our pursuit of those 3 letters and trying to finish our dissertations but even those that have finished are still there to support those that are still trying to finish.  

One conversation that came up during the wedding weekend was how disconnected the newer cohorts were from each other. It appeared they were not as connected, not as interested and not as invested in building a network the way our cohort was. While one can say “to each their own” I am sad to hear that this is happening.  I understand that people have lives and in some ways, focusing on your doctoral research is truly all that maters in a program.  But I challenge doctoral students to leave the comforts of their research every now and then and truly network and engage with others outside of the classroom.  Building networks is not just for social engagement – its academic too!  In my experience, not only did I make long lasting friends that I attended football games or weddings with but I also further developed my academic network and can rely on colleagues for information regarding my academic program, my research, help with statistics, future writing and research partners, etc.  And for those doctoral students that are looking at my claims as personal and cannot be generalized to a larger population, I can refer you to a research study that I completed with my lovely network that statistically showed the academic and social value of connections among doctoral students. 🙂  

What I can assure you is that these connections are not something that happens in a vacuum! So while I understand the competition and I get the singular focus on your research, I disagree with the insular behavior. As a researcher studying dynamic networks I fully believe in the learning that transpires across networks. So get out of your office, introduce yourself to somebody and grab a coffee.  Listen intently and share openly.    

A dream delayed…

Sometimes plans fall through.  Today is exactly that day.  A year ago if you asked me what I would be doing on this day, I would have told you that I would be marrying the love of my life because today is the day that C. and I planned to have our wedding.  July 19, 2014 was the date that we reserved and told people to come to Las Vegas for the ultimate Filipino-Angolan wedding.

Unfortunately, this did not work out as planned. I am not in Las Vegas and I am not getting married right now.  Seven months ago when we decided to postpone the wedding, it was difficult writing the cancellation letter to my venue.  Even though I knew it was the right decision and in many ways, a huge relief, there was a lingering sense of failure.  See a year ago, when the idea of planning a wedding while trying to finish my dissertation, transition into a new job/city and maintain a long distance relationship seemed daunting…I was open to the challenge.  But to actually live it was mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting.  I guess even Superwomen have to draw the line somewhere and I had hit it.

Not to mention on C’s side of things – he was busy transitioning back into living in his home country and working full time.  And most importantly, we had to navigate the VISA system and let me tell you – obtaining visitor Visa’s are not that easy and lots of hiccups can happen in that process.

Thankfully, family and friends took the decision to postpone the wedding well, although I know everyone was excited about the idea of living it up in Vegas!  And I am grateful to have such supportive parents that were perfectly okay with letting things happen as they need to be.  And while the decision was hard, I know it was the right one.

Over the past few months I have come to question what my big day will look like.  And to be honest, I am not sure what I was planning on having (this massive extravaganza of a wedding) is really what I want anymore.  As a young girl I saw the huge weddings my aunts and cousins had and couldn’t wait to one day have that kind of wedding.  I mean who wouldn’t want that moment where you were the center of everyone’s attention?  Who wouldn’t want to follow all the traditions of the Filipino wedding?  I craved it and couldn’t wait for my turn.  But to be honest, it was a lot of pressure trying to plan this huge wedding.  And some of it really strained my relationship with C.  And I had to think to myself, at what cost do we take to fulfill a childhood dream that may not be so feasible when you are grownup?

Right now, my focus is on my dissertation.  I need to finish soon.  I want to finish soon.  It’s a weird feeling because even though this isn’t the reason why I postponed my wedding, I feel that I prioritized my career aspirations over love.  But someone told me recently something that was very enlightening.  She said, “That’s good to wait and finish your dissertation because then you get to enjoy the process of planning a wedding.”  She is exactly right.  I want to enjoy the process and be a happy bride.

So as it stands, I don’t know when I will get married.  I don’t know what it will look like and I don’t know where it will be.  All I know is that when that special day comes, I want it to be a moment filled with lots of love and happiness.  Waiting is hard but the comforting piece of all of this is that good things come with time and all will work out the way it is meant to be.

Summer lovin’ – Madrid style

Clearly, I need to learn how to blog more often.  However, for anyone that works with deadlines – when you have one as big as your dissertation proposal defense, everything else in life tends to take a backseat.  So a quick dissertation update – I passed my oral comps AND my proposal defense!  Don’t ask why I did them back to back…but I did and passed thankfully!  But more on the dissertation front later – I have a post in line regarding the doctoral process for those that don’t understand all that entails to get those precious 3 letters behind your name…Ph.D!

Anyways, WELCOME TO SUMMER!!! For those of us in college administration, summer officially begins once those precious students leave and the graduates have crossed the stage.  This summer I have only my dissertation to focus on and this trip I am currently on.  So where am I???  Where in the world is Lani??  MADRID, SPAIN…hence the title!  Yes, I am in Europe exploring a new country 🙂

Back story – C. is on a business trip and asked if I wanted to meet him here.  Who says no to a free trip to Spain???  So here I am…in Spain for a week.  Travel was quite painful this time around.  I only had 2 meltdowns…mainly due to Delta being Delta and my second luggage being temporarily lost (thankfully found during the process of me filing a claim).  But I am here and upon arrival to the hotel…I found a sweet surprise from C.  On the night stand he had a framed picture of us and he left a note with Euros for me to enjoy lunch and explore the neighborhood.  Such a thoughtful gesture!  After getting settled in and briefly seeing C. during his lunch break, I went off to explore the area.

First off, the hotel is next to the Real Madrid stadium.  Clearly, the non Soccer fan in me was unimpressed.  But I know C. is excited to be so close to the stadium.  Hopefully we will catch a game this weekend and I can see what this sport is all about.  I guess if I am going to marry this man I will need to understand his beloved sport.  😉  After walking around the stadium I only had about 30 minutes to get back to the hotel to meet C. for dinner.  Of course, the smart person would just retrace their steps and take the same route back to their hotel.  Of course, on a beautiful day – I choose to just keep walking in a different direction assuming I would find my way back to the hotel.  I reasoned that I was just walking a square block I would run back into the hotel…yeah no.  After walking around and around, I eventually stumbled across a familiar site – McDonalds, hahaha.  Yes, our hotel is near a McDs…anyways, I knew that meant I was close to the hotel.  Unfortunately, I took the wrong street and got even more lost!  After stopping in a bakery for a snack, the lady at the register told me to turn around and I would find my street (which ironically was the street where McDonalds was on…I just took the wrong turn at that intersection).  😦

Despite being 45 minutes late, C. was not back yet so I had time to get dressed for dinner.  After meeting some of his colleagues, C. and I went to the mall to look for something for his Madre.  The walk was quite enjoyable and the weather was wonderful (neither hot or cold…just right).  One thing C. quickly pointed out was that he stuck out in the crowd…there apparently is not a lot of Africans in Madrid and he felt that people looked at him in a negative manner.  Sure enough, after looking around more observantly, people did look at him differently than they looked at me.  I am not sure if it was the area we were in which seemed much more affluent or if there is a general disfavor towards Africans in Madrid but I can sense he felt uncomfortable with what he perceived to be outright racism (apparently to add more fuel to the fire, the first day he arrived –  a restaurant turned him and his colleagues away as they were searching for dinner claiming the kitchen had suddenly “closed” despite several people having just arrived to dine).  Another observation as we were shopping, there are a lot of Filipinos in Madrid! I ran into so many at the shopping mall and C. said he came across a large tour group of Filipinos the other day.  I wonder if they can see me and sense I am Filipino too as I tend to do when I have the rare sighting of other Pinoys in the South?

After shopping, we had a late dinner in a nice restaurant on our way back to the hotel.  Dining in Madrid will clearly be quite expensive but on the bright side…wine is free flowing and cheap!  I had a delicious sangria that paired nicely with my pasta dish.  And we dined al fresco!!!   It was beautiful, romantic and fun.  As I told C. this is exactly what I imagine our life being like – full of culture and a dash of spontaneity.  My last observation of the day, C. is quite the polyglot as he speaks Spanish very well despite lack of formal training, he claims its due to his years in South Florida during college.  And for me, my 10 years of formal Spanish lessons has escaped me as I spend my time now mastering Portuguese.  I forget little phrases like “gracias” and “si” instead saying the portuguese versions “obridgado” and “sim”.  And of course, I didn’t think to bring a spanish-english dictionary for this trip – so I had to download the app on my phone this morning so I could navigate the rest of my vacay.

Now I am off to navigate the metro system and find the city center.  Anyone that knows me knows I am not content with the nice neighborhood that I am staying in. I need to find the heart of the city, the historical districts, the street shops and cultural food…..

Until next time…

Adios!

Lani  

Welcome to the journey!

Deciding to get a doctoral degree was no different than deciding to get married.  Because the reality is, there was no decision.  I have always known two things about my future: 1) I will get married and 2) I will be Dr. Lani.  As I got older and realized that getting married isn’t really in my sole control (it takes two to tango after all) I still always believed that I would find that right person that could put up with me.  And when I think about my doctoral degree, I wasn’t deterred when the first school I applied to didn’t accept me…I just knew that somewhere another program would.

In many ways, the two paths have been similar.  Whenever I reached a milestone in my doctoral process, I also reached a milestone in my personal love life.  These two journeys are also intertwined and dependent on each other.  For one, life with C. can never truly begin until Dr. Lani is achieved.  At the same time, C. is the biggest supporter of the Dr. Lani journey.  Early in my life, I knew that I wanted to be a Dr. before a Mrs.  This notion interestingly enough stemmed from my father.  He always emphasized that Dr. San Antonio sounded much better than Dr. “insert random last name”.  For a Filipino father not encouraging their daughter to get married and have kids is pretty rare.  But also is why my parents are awesome and raised such an independent person like myself.  So I made a promise to myself, whatever my last name is when I graduate…that is what will stay forever.  C. has always known that and is okay with it.  And thankfully, if all works out, the Dr. will come before the Mrs.

So as both my journeys will converge soon (as one will hopefully end before the second begins), I figured it was time to start this blog I kept putting off.  As a person who always had so many thoughts growing up, writing was a safe haven.  I used to write in a diary/journal since I was 7 years old.  Seriously, that is the earliest journal I have.  And I have kept a journal every year up until 2010.  Yes, that is 20 years’ worth of writing my thoughts, secrets and dreams.  After 2010…life got a bit hectic, social media was my playground and writing took a backseat to the ultimate document…my dissertation.

But life is more than just writing your dreams, it’s about living them.  And for me, it’s more than me becoming a Dr. AND a Mrs., even though both of those titles were ones that I believed for so long would define me.  This journey is about me becoming me.   And that is someone that will hopefully be ever changing and living life to the fullest.

Enjoy this journey!

Lani