An Open Letter to the Me I Was, I Am, I Will Be

By Katlin Sweeney

Today, someone asked me why I’d want a PhD.

If it is so difficult

If it will take so long

If so many people already do it

If I could do something other than “just school”

If I could be good at “other things”

If I want to be a mother someday

If I want to be in a long-term relationship

If I want to enjoy my life

There are many gardens in my life. I am fortunate to be part of and care for so many:

My family, my partnership, my friendships, my classrooms, my internship, my zines, my tutoring space, my classes, mi comunidad, my cohort.

While I water these gardens, care for them, and love them, I have never done this for myself.

My body and mind are locales that I have inhabited for 23 years

Are spaces that I have hated, fought with, ignored, and wished away

Are spaces that I often deemed ugly, useless

Are spaces that I often deemed unworthy of love from men, myself, or mi comunidad

And while academia is a collective that I may struggle to find my voice in, often feel out of place in, often feel too unintelligent for, it has been healing.

Fighting for and with academia has taught me to embrace myself, even in moments when my arms and heart and mindbodyspirit feel heavy.

So, yes, I want a PhD, and I have committed to working towards one.

I am done with narratives that dictate what women and Latinxs are able to do.

Women and Latinxs persevere, do work, create space, and are sources of power.

Someone asked me why I’d want a PhD.

Well, I want a PhD. And I no longer fear to say it aloud.

I no longer fear that I sound arrogant, unruly, ignorant.

I want a PhD.

For me

For mi papa

For mi mama

For mi Abuelita

For mi Abuelito

For my grandfather

For my grandmother

For my siblings

For my partner

For my future babies

For the friends who have always told me I could

For the mentors who knew I could before I did

For the partners and friends who told me I could never do it

For the people that believe I cannot, because I am a woman

For the people that believe I cannot, because I am a Latinx

For the people that believe I cannot, because I am too small, too unprepared

No more maybes, hopefullys, or “not me.”

I want a PhD.

Because I believe in the radical power of women, girls, and genderqueer folks.

Because I believe that academia needs to be decolonized, challenged, and radicalized.

Because I believe that academia needs to be uncomfortable, diverse, and accessible.

Because I believe that all institutions of power need to be confronted, including those that I participate in.

Because I believe in being responsible, accountable, and audible, when it is my turn to lead the way.

Because I believe in holding space and stepping back for marginalized folks to have a voice.

Because I believe in the agency, abilities, and futures of my students.

Because I believe that mentorship, education, and teaching are superpowers.

Because I believe that representation is revolutionary.

Because I believe that the men who silenced me knew that power resides in me and feared it.

Because I believe in reclaiming my body from the institutions that attempt to claim it.

Because I believe that my education has helped me heal the wounds patriarchy opened.

Because I believe that my mentors, instructors, and professors have liberated me.

Because I believe that my body, voice, and mind scare the patriarchy, and I must use them.

Because I believe that everything is political, everything is a text, everything is problematic.

Because I believe that I can be my own inspiration, liberation, and motivation.

Because I believe that seeing a woman “make it,” seeing a Latinx “make it,” opens doors for other folks to do the same.

Because I believe that academia has room for multitudes, tidal waves, of women and Latinxs.

Because I believe that women and Latinxs can support each other and love each other in academia without competing against each other.

Because I believe that if I want to see more badass Latinx feminist scholars in academia, I must believe in mi comunidad, but also in myself.

Because I believe that I can be a woman, a mother, a feminist, a professor, a sister, a daughter, a wife, a healer, a creator, a writer, an editor, a friend, a scholar. At the same time.

Because I believe that I can be intelligent, beautiful, ambitious, powerful, innovative, creative, and enthusiastic, regardless of outside opinions.

Because I believe that even in moments when these visions of myself are hard to believe, they are possible.

I want a PhD.

Because I no longer will question if I can do it.

Because I do not want other little girls to dream big and then set those dreams aside.

Because I know I can, and all girls can.

Because I will.

Because we all will.

 

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