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Charity Lane

Living at the Intersection: Reflections on the Graduate Student Experience

Charity LaneGuest columnist: Charity R. Lane, Regent University, Class of 2016

My identity as a Christian woman not only holds deep meaning for my life but also directs its course, which has been the reason for this adventure called “graduate school.” The challenge I’ve faced consistently is the decision of priority – what is most important to me? As I navigate my journey it’s extremely easy to get caught up in the current of what those around me do. After all, “going with the flow” does not take too much effort or even conscious decision. However, I realized quickly that the demands of grad school could sweep me up in a way that would rush me by the people and needs of the world around me.

Yet, at the same time, those people and needs can be so overwhelming that I lose the ability to faithfully keep in the “stream” of this journey. It’s at the point of this tension that I’m reminded of the question so persistently knocking in my subconscious – “who are you trying to please?” Not just knowing my identity, but resting in it, allows my life to naturally be aligned with who I know myself to be. From this central anchor for my life, I’m able to face the challenges of priority without shame or guilt and without losing focus – even when those priorities look different from those around me. For example, in the midst of my graduate journey, I made the decision to take an extra year in completing my program in order to focus on areas of my life that held particular meaning for myself as a Christian and a woman. I’ve begun to realize that my life as a Christian woman who is also a psychologist will be different from others. Identifying as a Christian pulls me from the current and sets me down in the present while identifying as a woman keeps me focused on the relationships in my life that are of utmost importance. It is from this secure resting place of knowing my identity that I find the most joy and fulfillment.

A significant learning moment for me came when I was just beginning to think about pursuing my doctorate. My dad, a primary point of support as I’ve navigated intersecting identities, encouraged me to never allow my studies to take away from the genuine desire I have to connect with the hearts of those around me. It was quickly apparent to me that I could grow such an academic perspective on the world that I would lose the purity of relationship with a human on a heart level. Henry David Thoreau stated, “It is an interesting question how far men would retain their relative rank if they were divested of their clothes,” which humorously reminds me that “under the degree” I’m still an embodied soul that desires connection. That is why a secure foundation in my identity as a Christian and a woman will allow me to be consistent wherever I am – inside or outside of academia.

This column is part of a monthly series highlighting the experiences of students and professionals with diverse intersecting identities and is sponsored by the APAGS Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity and the Committee for the Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Diversity. Are you interested in sharing about your own navigation of intersecting identities in graduate school? We would be happy to hear from you! To learn more, please contact the chair of APAGS-CSOGD (Julia Benjamin) or CARED (James Garcia).