And Now We Wait

When I was a first-year doctoral student, a recent graduate came to one of our doctoral seminars and regaled us with her wild stories of dissertation research. She told us about Faustian deals with her husband, exchanging a few hours of childcare every night for some promise of delight in the year 2024 so she could write.

I remember scoffing at her and the methods she wantonly flaunted. (Apparently her organizational methods involved stacks of journal articles tucked away in color-coded Tupperware bins.) And I likely rolled my eyes when she mentioned that she wrote every weeknight until some ungodly hour and locked herself in the library on the weekends. I thought she was in hyperbole overdrive when she commented on the loneliness associated with doctoral research.

Fast forward three years.


In hindsight, my arrogant naiveté at the time was understandable, if not expected. You don’t really know what you get yourself into when you sign up for something like getting a doctorate. And even though you know that you’re going to have this tremendously long paper at the culmination of all the wheel-spinning, you don’t really grasp what that means until… well, until you’re there.

The past week has been simultaneously climactic and anticlimactic for me. Much like a more academic and much less consequential version of 24, I was running around trying to get signatures and other manner of bureaucracy completed. But I was finally able to submit my dissertation to the school, schedule my oral defense, and apply for graduation. And I even signed away $670 of my hard-earned student loan money to purchase my graduation regalia. (For that much money, rest assured it will be worn on all sorts of other occasions).

But now I get a good four weeks to prepare for the defense.

And now I get to catch my breath.

That’s a good thing. I’ve literally been working on this stupid dissertation nonstop since November. (Yes on the nightly writing until the wee hours. Ditto on the locking myself in the library on the weekends.) In the process, I’ve neglected friends, family, and any semblance of a social life. Assessment in student affairs is now oozing out of every pore of my body. I have dreams about accountability. My body is staging a strike; it knows it’s time for a break.

But I suspect that the four-week break is also going to be an intense time of reflection and processing for me. It hasn’t quite hit me yet, but the culmination of four long years of papers, projects, and presentations is literally around the corner. And as incredibly self-aware as I am, I know for certain that this sobering reality will dawn on me: I’ve completed my terminal degree and have nowhere else to go except the real world. I can no longer rely on my twisted Peter Pan syndrome. I must face the harsh fact that I can no longer defer paying off my student loans. Just in time for my 30th birthday. 🙂

Until then (March 12 for the oral defense, April 1 for the final edits before the document is submitted for publication), I wait.


4 thoughts on “And Now We Wait

  1. Sounds like someone needs some time in the Reflection Chair.

    Arch, you’re being a little hard on yourself. I don’t know any other people who could have juggled a full time job, teaching improv, performing improv, moonlight as my personal IT consultant, stick to their LGN plan, make trips to be with loved ones AND write their dissertation.

    The other day, no joke, I stared at the ceiling for an hour because I couldn’t decide if I should go to the store or not.

    I continue to be so impressed by you.

  2. Archie –

    You are a force to be reckoned with. Your mental and physical fortitude cannot be imitated. The beauty of all this hard work coming to an end is:

    1) You in one month from today, you will become Dr. Coobysnacks.

    2) You will no longer be required to sequester yourself in the basement of GW.

    3) You will be able to appreciate daylight more than ever.

    4) You will sleep better.

    5) You will be able to spend time with family and friends without feeling guilty that you should be working on your massive tome.

    6) You will laugh more.

    7) You will eat food for pleasure and not just as a means to energize your body between edits.

    8) You will become sexier just because you’re happier.

    9) You will no longer have any homework.

    10) You can stare at the ceiling for an hour to decide if you should go to the store or not.

  3. Ohhh….Sarah….That’s a nice top 10 with excellent call backs!

    Archie, I wish planning our party would take away all your worries, like it does for me…alas….would you like my tiara?

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