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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Holkenbrink-Monk


I'm a big Doctor Who fan. I'm aware of a lot of its problems, like imperialism and such, but it has managed to maintain my attention for some time. I am a little behind, granted, but I am such a nerd that I even had a Doctor Who inspired wedding when I got married in 2015. My daughter's dress was an adorable TARDIS dress and my son wore a cute suit. Folks in the wedding party were invited to wear 3D glasses and my bouquet was made with sheet music in the shape of origami flowers and the base was a sonic screwdriver.

So, one of the things I have been excited about is to finally be called, "Doctor."

On March 20, 2023, I successfully defended my dissertation and become Dr. Charlene Holkenbrink-Monk. Everybody keeps asking, "What's next?" and I've hated that question because I do not like committing to things. But, in reality, part of it is also because I'm terrified of failing miserably and not being able to be successful in anything I do. Do I really know what I am doing? Am I actually capable of being a published professor?

I honestly have no idea. I want to run away and live in a forest and write books. But then, of course, the next question is - am I capable of doing that?

I do know that I want to publish a book. I want to conduct workshops. I want to travel and take photos and live my damn life.

Interestingly, I was at this spot last year,

too. I was severely depressed. I wasn't teaching in person. I was broke. I was preparing my last qualifying exam and getting ready to leave in a little over a month to drive to Illinois from San Diego, where I would eventually finish my proposal. But, that's what prompted me to make this website, a TikTok, a new Instagram that showcased my art. I want to have a successful nonprofit, which is established but has no funding. I would love to find a community that supported me, rather than feeling as if I expend efforts in ways others do not. (Don't get me wrong, I do have some amazing individuals, but what I mean is where I share and support, advocate, and rally behind the work of many folks, who then have watched me talk about my nonprofit for years, with little to no support even with words.) This sounds mild, or maybe even "silly" but, it's exhausting to think that these are all passions and dreams of mine, and folks have merely scrolled by, yet have consistently shared the latest MLM scheme. Often, these are the moments where you also question the work you do, yet, I've pushed forward.

I shifted gears around this time last year. I thought that I needed to keep separate the various parts of who I am - my academic self, my photo-loving, fiction writing identity, my mom love, my love of travel, and exploration - which then meant that I would have so many different websites or social media accounts, but then it dawned on me that in no way do I want that. If I want to be any of these things, I need to present myself as my whole self, not just one part.

So, I am Dr. Charlene Holkenbrink-Monk who loves research, who is going to publish, who is creating an Institute for Participatory Action Research, who will continue to travel and post photos of those adventures, who will aim to write a fiction novel and will be her whole, authentic self. I realized that for a period of time, I avoided this - I refused to be vulnerable, to discuss the realities of my life; I shut down. But I refuse to do that. So, Dr. Charlene Holkenbrink-Monk is on a journey to funnel this restlessness to keep being restless and do all the damn things.

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