In 1980, I walked on to play football at Eastern Illinois University (EIU). I was the first in my family’s history to attend higher education. However, I hated my experiences at Eastern and developed a stinging anger about postsecondary institutions. I was overwhelmed, I lacked so much and quickly suffered psychologically, socially, and academically. When I prepared to leave Eastern in 1984, I felt like an academic holocaust victim and carried scars for the next 25 years.
In essence, I learned nothing, absolutely nothing. I learned nothing about life, academics, social skills, nothing. It was not just EIU but various factors (i.e., poverty, malcontent) contributed to my nasty adventure. Because it was all about football, the learning environment for me appeared as some sort of movie set. In it I was the comedian’ set up man. Seriously, I lacked everything you could imagine to navigate a predominantly all-white institution. I was a clown crying days and nights. And another thing, it wasn’t my side of town for a circus.
In 2009, I returned to a predominantly all-white postsecondary institution again. Losing the comic setup guy’s role, I wanted to get the college thing right this time. I began this new journey because of my self-beliefs. You see back at Eastern my confidence (i.e., academics) was shot to hell. I had no sincere beliefs I could learn, none. Add to that, I lacked any sociocultural connections with family members or peers who attended higher education. Thus, I was alone, silent on an island, crying like hell.
Although my mother’s verbal persuasion did its best, I needed ‘most knowledgeable others’ in so many areas (e.g., academically, socially, and emotionally). But no one came, so, I cried myself to sleep for four years at EIU. Northern Illinois University (NIU) racial landscape is similar to Eastern 30 years ago. There are mostly white students accompanied by mostly white faculty and staff. Conversely, it can also be hostile at times for non-white students and faculty. I however am not a teenager as in 1980; consequently, I possess the confidence and abilities to achieve a specific task (e.g., my dissertation).
Northern Illinois University
I have met tremendous professors and students while at NIU. Caucasians, African-Americans, Native Americans, Chicano Americans, Asian, and Eastern Europeans. The dam list can go on forever. But, the most delightful part was these individuals dispensed their knowledge for the sake of my learning and development. This NIU journey filled with numerous sociocultural tenets convinced me I was not alone, not this time. Also, I learned more importantly without outsiders’ support you’re doomed or as Mick would say, ‘You’re F^%$ked’.
I’ve had great relationships with many individuals, but also some poor ones as well. I want to say this before I forget, one problem that sticks with me is deciding my doctoral topic. I have changed it several times for numerous reasons. Yet, after speaking with Mick and Sue yesterday, I’m convinced that I’ve made the wrong decision in not studying my passion (e.g., football and academic literacy). These two women illustrated as many have in the past, the doc journey must be about passion.
Put another way, it must be like something stuck in the crack of your behind you can’t reach. I mean its eating at you this f*&king problem….you just gotta dig up in your crack regardless of who’s looking. I HAVE TO GET THIS OUT!!! Yet, I’m delaying digging in my crack because I’ve made decisions based on outside influences. Thus, the itch isn’t real because I’m faking perhaps. I feel like I’m at Eastern Illinois again in the 80’s lacking the self-determination to follow my passion (e.g., student-athletes and literacy).
My ideal doctoral topic?: I believe you know by now (Student-athletes’ literacy development) at the secondary and postsecondary level. I have a special place for this population, oh by the way, I can read and write for hours on this content. I’ve yet to come across an article that made me dazed or confused. Really, I can read about it in my sleep, while jogging, and inside the grip of a Great White Shark. Well, maybe a little over the top with the comment.
Working with other athletic social advocates we can begin to help students-athletes put academics first and sports second. This can occur, because as we know the argument is becoming public (i.e., Northwestern). The status quo for student-athletes is changing, I have a chance to present scholarship that hopefully would advance the movement.
My Big Question: Why Fake A Doctoral Passion?