The last year in my PhD program has made me sympathetic to those individuals who are a part of these statistics: 1) roughly 50% of people who begin doctoral programs do not finish them 2) roughly 50% of people who make it to the ABD (all but dissertation) stage do not complete their degrees 3) the average time for completion of a PhD is seven years.
This year has probably been the most challenging of my life. Attempting to be a dedicated Christ-follower, a good husband and father, an excellent teacher and colleague, while taking a last doctoral class, two written exams, an oral defense, and completing a dissertation has been overwhelming. Throughout the last nine months, I’ve often felt as though I’m skimping on my commitments in these areas, but now that only one final hurdle remains (a dissertation defense in six weeks), the business has lessened, and I’ve begun an experiment, stemming from the idea of “Sabbath.”
For the last four Sundays, beginning with Easter, I’ve declined from doing any work for my job. As a college professor, I can always be doing work–“normal” workday hours (9-5, 8-4, etc.) are not a possibility. Nonetheless, my experiment so far resulted in many benefits, of which I’ll name three: 1) More energy for Monday, and the rest of the week 2) more time with my wife and son 3) more time for leisurely reading.
I’m not concerned with creating a list of “approved” and “unapproved” activities/tasks for my Sundays; I am, however, concerned about honoring God, devoting time to my family, and allowing myself to “rest.” See, when I first met my wife, I did not have the world’s strongest work ethic. But from the time I finished my MFA, I began to change, such that when I entered my PhD program in 2007, I had the important skills of a dedicated “workaholic,” and for the first three years of my program, I worked hard, harder than I’d ever worked in my life. I missed out on far too much valuable time with my wife, my friends, and (later) my son.
Now my weekly day of rest is part of a larger plan to develop a better balance between the extremes of laziness and overwork. It’s working thus far. I’d like to think I’m a better Christ-follower, a better husband and father, a better teacher, a better writer. And in case you were wondering, I don’t view writing blog posts as work.