Count Your Hearts & Remember to Say Thank You by Timara McCollum

Timara McCollum
Timara McCollum

Hello, my name is Timara McCollum, and I am a first-year PhD student in Educational Psychology & Counseling, with a concentration in Evaluation, Statistics, & Measurement at the University of TN Knoxville.  I am also heading towards my 4th year in motherhood academy. My eldest daughter will be four soon, and we will welcome our baby boy this summer!

I wanted to take a moment from balancing my daily intake of tweets, webinars, data-vizzing, meal planning, doll-playing…napping/fighting napping… (thanking goodness she’s potty-trained) …to write a few lessons learned from a first year to fellow parents pursuing PhDs and/or emerging evaluators.

Lessons learned:

  1. Say thank you. Say thank you to your child(ren). They are also making a sacrifice and contribution to your doctorate degree.  Just this morning, our daughter helped me count the hearts in my data visualization that I was creating for Stephanie Evergreen’s #heartchart challenge. The tradeoff was a game of Feed the Woozle. The trade was worth it to see her smile and light up with affirmation. It also gave her a first glimpse of statistics before she can tie her shoes.
Top 2 Chocolate Box favorites spectrum diagram
  • Say thank you. Say thank you to your support network.  Whether it is your spouse, significant other, your parent(s), your cohort, your boss, your small group, your drinking buddies, your fur-babies, your neighbor, whoever it may be that is now reminding you of your purpose or helping take the trash down to the curb.  Saying, “thank you,” is so much more meaningful than saying “I’m sorry,” or, “Not right now.”  It doesn’t mean you say yes to everything, but it does acknowledge the significant role they play as you make adjustments to your increasingly crunched schedule and stretched mind-space.
  • Say thank you. Say thank you to the new mentors you recruit to inspire you along the way. They don’t fall from trees or suddenly appear out of nowhere to provide you with glass slippers to wear to the ball. But they do make adjustments to their own schedules, miss time with their families, and share research agendas with you to help you become the best evaluator you can be. 
  • Say thank you. Say thank you to the people that motivated you (with all the good, bad, and ugly) to take a step out of your usual and pursue your doctorate.  It’s also a little more than slightly satisfying to imagine meeting them at the grocery store and remind them of that time when they knew you when _______.
  • Say thank you. Say thank you to yourself for making this amazingly intimidating, but utterly necessary commitment against all odds to attain your dream and pursue your life’s work.  You did it.  You took the first step, and you can keep taking one step at a time for the next 2…3…4 years until you cross that stage.

And all those people you took the time to say, “thank you,” they will be there too.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

1 thought on “Count Your Hearts & Remember to Say Thank You by Timara McCollum”

  1. Timara,

    Your post resonated with me on a spiritual level. I am a first time parent with an almost 3 year old son. I am currently working towards completing my undergraduate degree, however I do have hopes of soon after pursuing my masters and it has been hard juggling the two worlds. I do try to mind myself to thank my son daily for being patient with me, while I delay lunch, miss out on outdoor play time, and lock myself in to bedroom so I can finish an assignment without loosing my place. Both of these entities (motherhood and academics) require lots of attention and juggling the two has pushed me to plan ahead. I do not mean to equate the work you are doing on your PhD to my bachelors however, motherhood is demanding regardless of the other roles you take on. With universities and workplaces closed for business during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all adjusting to working from home and for that we should say thank you to your significant others and other family members supporting you through this time. I think remembering to thank yourself for going on this journey is something most tend to forget but it is important to remember to be kind to yourself during this period as well.
    Wishing you well.

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