Discussions of first-generation students (FGS s) in academic spaces can easily fall into talks of deficits. Indeed, FGS s may lack the benefit of a parent or guardian who can act as a knowledgeable guide to and through post-secondary contexts. However, FGS s may also draw upon unique personal assets and characteristics to succeed academically. One crucial element for success that I have identified in my own first-generation academic journey is the importance of a growth mindset amidst a lack of capital (Bourdieu & Passeron, 1977), namely, the (academic) cultural knowledge possessed by continuing-generation students. In this autoethnography, I chronologically explore my post-secondary journey as a first-generation doctoral student, identifying points in time in which I lacked capital but employed the asset of a growth mindset to fill in the gap. The data reveal how a growth mindset developed during the undergraduate and early-graduate years due to my first-generation status, and how this new outlook resulted in a meandering yet fulfilling doctoral journey.
The doctoral journey is not for the faint of heart. When you are in the middle of the journey and recognize that you are “the faint of heart,” do you push forward, or do you withdraw for some needed self-care? Yielding to these feelings could mean giving up our educational progress as well as personal academic dreams and career milestones. Similarly, blindly plowing forward could potentially result in physical, mental, and emotional health issues. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 9:11 that “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong.” You quickly realize the doctoral journey is a slow race riddled with challenges and victories. Maintaining our emotional, mental, and spiritual health was critical to thriving in the process. This duoethnographic inquiry recounts the personal narrative of two Black female doctoral students as we initially navigated the doctoral journey independently and later developed a flourishing friendship/support system seemingly by chance. The emotional, mental, and spiritual support that we found in each other seemed to be by divine appointment.