Memories can keep you grounded. They don’t have to keep you stuck.

Georgia NeSmith
6 min readFeb 10, 2020
Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash

My adviser had once told me that I had the brains to get a PhD and become a college professor, but he didn’t think I had enough “discipline.”

The letter below, dated April 23, 1994, was found among my files as I have been cleaning up my hard drive. I wrote it to that former adviser, detailing the hell I was going through the final spring [1994] I taught full time.

Dear RDM:

Discipline. I have been very disciplined for several weeks. Had to be — had to teach classes, fly about the countryside for job interviews & the conference, and get the final version of my dissertation ready for final deposit (lots of citations to find and/or fix, plus some “surgery” excising parts that some committee members had felt weren’t strong enough). All this while at the same time trying to swallow and shove down the shit emerging from my dreams — especially after my interview in San Jose, where I used to live as a child.

Discipline. This is the result:

Photo by Heye Jensen on Unsplash

Monday I got carted away in an ambulance after I collapsed on the stairs on the way up to my office before class. It’s nothing physical. No heart attack, high blood pressure, or anything like that. I just didn’t sleep for most of the weekend, and all the accumulated stress from all that I’ve been through just came down on me. I burst into uncontrollable sobs, saying I just can’t do this anymore.

I don’t know how many days I have driven to work crying all the way, wondering how I could manage to teach a class, and then somehow the cheerful, strong, energetic, indomitable “Dr. Georgia” would take over & pull me through. Monday she abandoned me.

I am finally admitting to myself and to everyone around me (except, of course, potential employers) how bad things really are. I have been on the edge of a breakdown for about 6 weeks, possibly longer. I have been masterful at hiding it. But I just couldn’t hide it anymore; it came bursting out at the seams.

I think the fact that I got all the corrections done for the final deposit for my dissertation…

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Georgia NeSmith

Retired professor, feminist, writer, photographer, activist, grandmother of 5, overall Wise Woman. Phd UIA School of Journalism & Mass Communication, 1994.