Sunday, June 16, 2013

“Que Bien”: Why My Father Would Say This Dissertation is Not a Big Deal


Whenever my siblings and I brought home A's and awards my late father usually had only 2 words of acknowledgment: "que bien." Translation:"that's good, but not really a big deal." I used to be puzzled and frustrated about this lackluster response because I would watch my friends get so much enthusiasm, praise and sometimes money for their achievements. Well that was not going to happen in our household. Aside from us not having any extra money for that, my father and my mother had high expectations for us and when we met them, they let us know our achievements were their own reward. It took me a while to learn that they were teaching us self-efficacy. As Ron Alsop shared in his book Trophy Kids Grow Up, these days it seems like kids are getting trophies for just showing up, which was definitely not enough in the Bautista home.

When I was in high school I remember seeing someone’s name with a Ph.D. at the end and I asked one of my teachers what that meant.  She said something about that being a set of letters someone gets when they have reached the highest level of education in an area of study. The way she said it also told me that this person was also well regarded and respected. I decided then that I wanted to be all of those things some day, so getting a doctorate became a definite goal to be achieved. There was nothing about that notion that seemed implausible for me. I think my parents instilled in me that kind of high expectation.  I should be able to do what I want as long as I work hard and follow the necessary steps. 

So here I am in the final step of earning those letters.  Set high expectations for yourself and meet them.  No big deal, right?  Well…I wish it was that easy.  No matter how strong your foundation is sometimes there are other forces that try to interfere with your dreams:
  • the strange looks from those who seem to be surprised that a Latina is working on getting a doctorate, as if somehow the idea of Latinas and Ph.D.s don’t seem to match
  • the bleak statistics that in 2006-2007 only 3.8 % of Latinas have earned doctorates compared to 61.9% of White women (source: http://www.denvergov.org/Portals/713/documents/LatinaUnderrep.pdf )
  • and finally, your own “stuff” and self-doubt that creeps in when you see others who seem to achieve this goal effortlessly (and quickly)
So for Father's Day, I honor my father’s memory by remembering the wonderful ways that he influenced me and my siblings. Although he left us too soon, he left behind 7 confident, capable and high achieving individuals who are positively contributing to society in a variety of ways and will continue to do so.

I will also keep reminding myself that this dissertation is NOT A BIG DEAL. It’s just another step towards earning my doctorate that requires hard work and dedication. I often imagine my dad smiling down from the heavens at my graduation saying, “que bien.” He would expect nothing less from one of his Bautista girls.

Te quiero y te extra├▒o Papi...