Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The last 5 months...

The last 5 months have been a whirlwind.  I am happy to report that I successfully defended my dissertation, completed the minor revisions, and officially graduated.  Like the continual broken record, I'll say that I wanted to post so many times, but for lack of time and adequate words, I refrained.  I took on some extra service projects at work that have been time consuming (to say the least), which along with my teaching responsibilities have just filled in the time that I would have been spending on my dissertation, if I still had that thing to work on.  The holiday break was very short, and I found myself beginning the semester feeling very depleted.  Now, it is around the midpoint of the semester. My college has "spring" "break" this week (notice the deliberate quotations on each word), yet I've found it difficult to try to unwind since I still had work to do.  I'm trying to keep a positive outlook and take everything one day at a time, but it's difficult when the calendar looks insane for the coming weeks.

This week has some level of nostalgia, though.  Last year at this time, I was taking a writing retreat which honestly was instrumental in helping me to finish my dissertation.  I've reflected on old Facebook posts on my time at the ocean, which motivated me to get that thing done.  Although I don't have the time right now to devote to it, I've found myself wanting to revisit my dissertation and think of a publication strategy.  I just wish that I had the mental space, physical energy, and time to begin doing that.

Lately, I'm trying to be more purposeful about living each day and enjoying it for what it is, rather than just trying to survive and get through the semester to my real first break in 10 years-- the summer.  It's been a challenge, but I'm especially trying to do it for my kids.  I feel that I've lost so much time with them in this journey, and I'm still trying to come to terms with whether or not it was worth it (100%).  I'm looking forward to having that time to reflect.

I've also been trying to take the advice to not get overly stressed out about work.  I've realized this semester that I have to set boundaries.  I can't be available 24/7 by e-mail.  I have a life too, and I have limitations.  I need to take care of my overall health.  I've been trying my best to be the best professor I can, given the fact that I began this semester with a decent case of burnout.  As a person of faith, I ask God to help me every day, although I need to get better about that as well.

I guess that right now, in retrospect, I have no words of wisdom to offer other than I'm glad that I finished and persevered, despite all that I went through in the last 10 years (and last semester in particular).  I think that I haven't fully processed everything yet...

Sunday, October 1, 2017


So much has happened since I last posted.  I've been to dissertation hell and back.  Let's just say that even one committee member can throw you for a loop if they don't like your draft.  I've been working every day on the thing, to the point where my mental and physical health has suffered.  I'm sitting here today, when I could have been out with family and friends, trying to work on it.  I think it's safe to say that I'm a bit burnt out, between working on the diss and all of my work responsibilities.  Oh, and don't forget the household-- well, it definitely looks like it's been forgotten this last month.   Today, I put in about an hour of work on the diss, and then I graded some papers.  Then I did some laundry.  But, I had wanted to spend all the time on the diss.  I honestly was feeling almost traumatized by it.

In about a month from now, I will defend, but I only have about a week and a half to complete these edits.  In the midst of all this, I can't but help but feel nostalgia.  Nostalgia for falls past, when I wasn't so under the gun.  When I was actually able to enjoy a Sunday afternoon with my family, rather than feeling a huge pit in my stomach and a weight on my chest; impatient with the kids because I just need the quiet.  Nostalgia even for those pre-PhD days, when I didn't even think of this or know what it was all about.  Nostalgia for apple picking, and going away for the long weekend to see foliage. 

And then I think, you know, despite all this stress, I have it pretty good.  I have a roof over my head; I have clean water and food to eat.   Why am I letting this PhD thing rule my life to the point of misery, when I am really very privileged at this point in time. 

Soon, I hope I feel that weight lifted.  But I also have to remember, that the weight I feel right now is not as heavy as others'.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The anticlimactic finishing of the draft

Yes, I just finished the draft of my final dissertation chapter.  I don't know, but it's weird.   I don't feel all that excited.  I think part of it has to do with the "unknown" that is still out there.  What will my advisor think of all of this?  Will I have to do a million revisions?  And of course, what of the other committee members who I haven't spoken with in over a year?  Do my findings really make that big of a contribution? Part of me feels like they're just going to say, "who cares?" Plus, I'm just feeling downright tired today.  And, my mind has started swirling (already) with all the stuff I have to do to get ready for the fall semester.  After all, in a little over a month, everything is going to start up full swing, and it's not like I've gotten a break from all stuff work related anyways.

I really should feel some sort of relief, and I should at least be a little proud of myself.  But, it's just not there.  I'm also afraid to post on Facebook about it.  I guess I'm just afraid that I'm going to jinx myself.  Argh!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Post 4th of July Blues

There's something about the 4th of July.  It's probably my favorite holiday.  Number one-- it's in the summer, which is my favorite time of year.  Number two-- I just love all the festivities.  On the other hand, it has often felt like a fulcrum for the summer.  Sometimes it feels like after the 4th passes, the rest of the summer zooms by.  Part of this is the fact that course prep and other work responsibilities commence towards the beginning of August.  This year, it's also a bit scary for me, since I wanted to have a polished draft of my dissertation done by the end of July.

I really think I'm almost there, it's just that dang conclusion chapter that I'm afraid to finish.  Part of me feels like my findings aren't that groundbreaking.  The other part of me is just finding it difficult to put part of that chapter into words.  The other issue is, I'm  not talking with my advisor until the third week of this month.  This was not according to my preferences, obviously, so I've been a bit upset about that (well maybe, "a bit" is an understatement.  Long story).  But, I have only a few days to finish a draft of that concluding chapter.  Part of me has been blatantly procrastinating, and the other part of me has just been burnt out.  

I posted on social media about the fact that I had an unproductive day yesterday.  A friend wisely replied, that possibly, I just need a break.  She reminded me that I actually am a productive person, but perhaps, I am just tired.  This is so true.  The other redeeming part of all this is that I have been trying to do some other small household projects, although my motivation for that is also failing lately.

The other thing is, I want to make memories with my family this summer, and I am determined that this will happen.  I admit that I've spent hours in the past couple weeks planning a couple of weekend getaways, as well as trying to finalize plans for conference travel.  I don't consider this to be a waste of time.  It's actually been a relief for me.  I also keep telling myself that it's ok that the kids are in camp, even if I'm not being super productive in terms of writing.  I was recently talking to a teacher who has the summer off; their child is also attending a few weeks of camp.  I also know that I made the right decision when I pick them up each day, and they excitedly tell me about all the activities.  They're getting swimming lessons too, which is awesome.  In addition, I know that if they were home with me all day (even if I did take them out), they would constantly fight.  This way, they're getting interaction with other kids, and they are learning new and interesting things.

For now, I have to figure out a way to get myself back in gear.  Maybe if I can even write a paragraph today, it would be good.  Let's see.  

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Endings and beginnings

Today, I just had to take some time to reflect.  Of course, I should be working on the final chapter of my dissertation--yes, I am now at that point, although I feel like I really need more feedback from my chair before I proceed.  Maybe that is just an excuse because I have been agitated about other things, but it's just that time of year when I've been struck with nostalgic thoughts of endings and beginnings.

Today is my daughter's last day of preschool.  I'm not so much emotional about that, but it's the last day that either one of my kids will be spending at the Pre-K-8 school where both of them attended preschool.  It is a private school; my son first attended the preschool program there 4 years ago.  We will definitely miss the school; it is somewhat the end of an era for us. 

Today my son attended his first second grade orientation.  I don't feel exceptionally emotional about that either, but it is another sign that one chapter is closing and another is beginning.

Of course, so many other thoughts are swirling in my head as I reflect on these milestones.  I feel bad that I couldn't volunteer at either kids' school, because of the demands of my job and the dissertation.  However, I try to tell myself that I'm not the only parent in this position, and finishing is going to be better for all of us. In the same vein, I feel bad in a sense that I am sending the kids to camp for nearly 6 weeks out of the summer.  But again, this is all for good reason.

And here I am--- wondering, am I really, really nearing the end?  It's like I have a feeling of disbelief mixed with a horrible case of imposter syndrome.  The latter has really trickled over into my identity as a faculty member as well.  I keep having these thoughts-- am I really competent as a faculty member?  Is my work really worthy of a Ph.D.?  Will my adviser like what I wrote, or will I be required to do extensive revisions?  What about the other committee members who I've barely communicated with since my proposal defense 3 years ago?  Then, there are other worries.  Will I have the time, with my teaching load and service responsibilities, to carry on my identity as a researcher? Will I be able to publish? Will there be other opportunities? 

I've read enough articles online, some of them multiple times for my own assurance, that I know that these thoughts are normal.  However, it doesn't help my anxiety, which I feel has really peaked the last few days. 

At the same time, I've started to think about what my life will be like once this dissertation isn't hanging over my head.  Will I feel less anxious?  Will I be able to actually develop a hobby or two (like photography, which I've always wanted to pursue-- and maybe getting involved in music again)? Will I be able to enjoy my kids' activities more, like my son, who keeps asking to take violin lessons but I just haven't had the time to figure it all out? Will I feel more fulfilled in my role as a faculty member?  Of course, these are just a few of the thoughts I've had.  Nevertheless, louder is this nagging thought that it might take longer than I think to finish-- but I wonder if that's just the imposter syndrome talking, and not the reality.  

Friday, June 9, 2017

Closer than we think

What a semester.  I had actually drafted another post, but decided for various reasons not to post it.  I had hidden struggles this semester, but by the grace of God, I got through them.  Now here I am, still stuck between some work responsibilities and my dissertation, and feeling just a bit run down physically.  Yet, it's getting closer.  That finish line of having a full draft of the dissertation.  A friend recently said, "You are probably closer than you think."  She said this because I mentioned that I feel close, yet so far away. 

"You are probably closer than you think."

I hesitate to post on Facebook that I just finished a draft of my introductory chapter.  I feel bad in the sense that a couple of my friends (and comrades in this struggle) are not at the same point as me, although they are also closer than they think.  I don't know if I could have gotten through this last year since I started writing without these friends.  Granted, we live pretty far away from each other, but we are there for each other. I've also joined a couple of Facebook groups that have been immensely encouraging and helpful in this process.

"You are probably closer than you think."

Yes.  I have the introductory chapter drafted, as well as my 3 substantive chapters.  Now, I just need to read through the chapters again, make edits, and draft the concluding chapter.  Part of me has no clue how to do this, although I've looked at other dissertations and I have a general idea of what to do.  Part of me is just afraid in a way.  Part of me is excessively worried about revisions and any additional hoops I will be expected to jump through before I can really be done. 

Part of me wishes that I had stuck to a strict writing schedule this semester, and I would have already had that full draft completed.  However, it was just too much and my mental health had already suffered.  It would have been nice to have much of the summer off, but we can't be too hard on ourselves. 

I think yes, I am closer than I think, although much work is left to be done.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Writing retreat, or "dissercation"

This last month was insane.  Teaching writing-intensive courses and advising students had gotten the best of me last month.  Not to mention my husband and son were overseas for two weeks, and I was home alone with my daughter.  Then, there was school vacation week and I got behind on grading.  Aahhh!!! Fast forward to this week-- it is Spring Break.  And, am I taking a break?  Um, not 100%.  I spent part of Monday grading, and then I drove to another destination to start my writing retreat, otherwise known as "dissercation."  First of all, it's weird being by myself for such an extended period of time, morning, noon, and night.  I can't remember the last time I did this.  Second, it's  not all that easy, either.  However, once I arrived 2 days ago, I was able to get a decent amount of work done.   Yesterday morning, I did some work, went for a swim, did some work, went for a drive by the ocean, came back, and did some more work.  However, in the tevening, I just couldn't do too much.  My back was hurting from sitting for so long in front of the computer, so I just decided to take a break and watch TV.  This morning, I did some work reviewing literature, went for a swim, talked on the phone with another friend who is doing the same type of thing this week, and then I decided to take a  decent break in the afternoon.  I was freaking out about all the literature I need to review to vamp up the lit review from my proposal.  I spent some time by the ocean-- a couple of times today, and that made my day.  After all, I need to take advantage of some of this quiet time, that I won't have when I travel back home tomorrow.

A "dissercation" is a good way to get some momentum back, but it's unrealistic to expect that you will be able to just sit and work on the dissertation non-stop all day.  I'm also at a point where I know what I need to do, but I'm feeling a bit stuck.  That's why I used some of the time to review literature, and even work on my bibliography (because I'm old school when it comes to that--  no Endnote for me!).  I also started a document for my notes, and I'm finding that I might have to add quite a bit to some of my other chapters as well.

Plus, I don't like to toot my own horn so to speak, but I want to give myself some credit.  I hardly looked at my dissertation in the last 2-3 weeks because of all the craziness, and thankfully, I was able to pick up momentum right after I arrived for this "retreat".  I admit that I kind of fizzled out today, but at least *something* got done even today.

Tomorrow morning, I plan to do some work, but I might try to fit in another swim before I leave.  Then, I plan to swing by another one of my favorite beaches before heading home.  I'm already planning to do another one of these in June or July, or who knows, maybe even before if I can squeeze it in.  Hopefully, at that point, I will be in a better place to just write the whole time.  Going into this, I had some uncertainties, but I'm glad I can say that it was worth it on many levels.