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  • Writer's pictureAshley Gray

10+ Things I Think... I'm a Whole DOCTOR Outchea

*cues Mystikal- judge me not. We all have some problematic tunes in our playlists.*

Hey friends, I did a thing a few days ago. I defended my dissertation. Guess I should update the bio page on this thing. Any who... I'm gonna walk you through the leading up to part and the defense.

1.Sugar, honey, ice tea. I'm gonna be honest... leading up to the moment is hard. You are stressed about the unknown. You're barely eating. Your immune system is playing red light/ green light. You have practiced the slides and obsessed over everything. This presentation is different than the others- you're family, friends, colleagues and committee are there. You have so many moving parts and all of it feels parceled.

2. Trying to find something to wear was a battle, chile. This COVID body and close dressing rooms will have you out here stressed. I wanted to feel and look good so of course, I was freaking out when my dress size changed a bit. Also, no one has really bought any dress clothes so the stores didn't get their normal top of the line options. So as I shift through dresses that give me either little house on the prairie or real housewives reunion- I'm frustrated. I cried in three different stores. Here's one of the contenders before I gave myself permission to spice it up.

3. My family came into town y'all. Honestly, I could stop blogging there. That's all I wanted was to be able to experience that moment with them. Although my momma tried to insist that I sleep at the hotel with her and my sisters, I wasn't budging. No, Carol. I'm going to the treehouse.

5. Getting dressed that morning. Who decided that dresses should have back zippers? So I can't zip my dress because my arms don't go that far. I leave out the house with an open back and spanx showing under a leather jacket. Momma will zip it for me.

4. The car ride- I had been planning my defense car ride since year one. I was gonna listen to Webbie's "Six-12s" and Young Dolph's "Get Paid" with a smooth transition into "Optimism" by Sounds of Blackness. Well, that car ride hits a little different when ya momma is dismayed by the lyrical content. I'll post the accompanying video for proof.

5. I get in the room and my momma's phone has that little drum sound every time she gets a text. I'm trying to practice my slides. She's taking calls from people at the church. Me: Lady, you have got to put that on vibrate. Her: How? Me: I'm taking you off the family plan because you really just want a flip phone. Sisters arrive and help her to get her technology together.

6. So the presentation is starting and I'm nervous because the number of virtual participants is growing wild. I was already not super enthused about a zoom defense and now I've spread the word too much. I'm questioning if I'm ready to do this. But, here we are and I'm no quitter. I start the presentation.

7. I get almost through the slides without crying and then I have to read a stanza from the poem I included at the end. I'm melting like a slug with a fresh throw of Morton's salt on it. I am happy to be done with slides but know very well that the questions begin now. And the reactions of my friends and family on screen is making me cry more. Folks are shaking their heads, high-fiving and responding although muted.

8. After two rounds of questions, I get put into a virtual waiting room. I have a good feeling they're going to come back with good news but I'm still praying. My momma is taking the time to critique the questions I've received and my committee's feedback. "You know, I really like what _______ said about ____." My sisters are eye-rolling and laughing.

9. They bring me and all the guest back into one virtual room and announce that I have passed my defense "with distinction". I melt again. After many thank yous and congratulations, I am feeling pretty unstoppable. Time for a photoshoot, right? Well, my family was already prepared. Custom made signs and everything.

10. It's really real. I've really earned this. And it's still surreal.

11. So... my friends who have been whispering, sneaking and asking me things like "What kinda doughnuts do you like" and what triggers my texture issues throw me a surprise party. I have custom gifts, menu and even the music is what I like. Y'all know I love baby shower food! I melt, again. Sidenote: Either buy waterproof makeup or just go bare. Chile, I cried enough tears to fill the Potomac.

Thank you to everyone who made this easily one of the best days of my life. God, my family, friends and colleagues showed up and showed out. I love y'all. To Ashley, (yes, talking myself)... you did it woman. You endured it all and you powered through. You worked your ass off. I am proud of you. It's #PhinisheD

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