Reverb11 – Persistent Questions

February Prompt:

One month into 2011, what question(s) are you living? Are there any prompts/questions that arose during #reverb10 that are still resonating in your life? Are you living new questions?

My temper has been really short the past few days.  It’s odd actually.  I sent off the lion’s share of my dissertation to my committee last week, I am very close to nailing down the date for my defense (which might just be April Fool’s Day) and yet I am feeling utterly unresolved.  I have little things nagging at me, a new LMS to learn that is driving me mad, and new online classes that started yesterday.

But really, these are small bumps.  I’ve got another job to apply for, and two that I am still waiting to hear back from (although the waiting causes some anxiety, especially since I know I am a really good match for one and I’m afraid the Ph.D. might not work in my advantage.)

I think most of this unsettled feeling comes from living in a new question: what next?  At the end of last year, when I started working on reverb10, I knew what was next.  I had a plan and even the moments during that time when I faltered, I knew pretty much what was coming.  Finish the dissertation.  Defend.  Get Ph.D.  Life long pursuit achieved.   Have big party.  Talk like cave woman.

Somewhere in the last few days a scary reality set in.  I have *no* idea what is next.  None-what-so-ever.  I’ve always been somewhat cavalier about the upcoming changes in my life – I’ve lived as an adjunct before and living as a Ph.D. student isn’t that much different, although a year long contract is a luxury not afforded to many adjuncts.  I know I’ll pull something together, the question is what does that something look like.

Part of me is ok with the uncertainty.

Part of me is screaming inside.

Like usual, I am suppressing the screaming part.  There is work to be done, papers to be read, and I hope I keep my distain out of the countless emails I send to my online students, answering the questions that I wrote the painstakingly detailed syllabus to answer.

I suppose I should remind myself of all the lessons I learned while I’ve been working on this blog:

Joy is the word for the year.
Happiness is shiny.
Forgiveness is good.
Health is important.
Emotional pathways can be troublesome.

As the saying goes, life is uncertain – eat dessert first.  Perhaps my dessert should come first, and should be the one thing I can always count on: the knowledge that I’ve persisted this far in this mad life that I love and that is the only certainty I need.

And as I want to wrap up there, I am taken back to another one of reverb10’s prompts – Letting Go.  I do have trouble letting go and as glad as I am to be moving on and out of school, I think part of me is struggling with letting go of being an official student in some way.  I read on a Ph.D. forum one time that there is a different reaction from people between when you are “working on” your Ph.D. and when you’ve finished it, especially if you’ve finished it and you haven’t gotten whatever dream job or ideal income it was magically supposed to grant you.  I think I might be a little bit afraid of that stigma, that somehow it’s so much easier and full of hope to be “working on” a doctorate rather than have finished it.

There is a part of me that fears being done.  Much like I got upset with my brother laughing because I am a “professional student,” I don’t want to face the questions that come when I’ve finished and I say, “Yeah I’m teaching part time.”  I know I will be fine with it, and so will the people in my life that truly love and care for me.  But still . . .

Recently, I found a great blog – The Thesis Whisperer.  It’s ironic because I found them so late in my process.  One post that spoke the most to me discussed how getting a Ph.D. is really about learning about yourself.  I couldn’t agree more.  I’ve learned so much about myself and I think this last lesson that I’m learning right here, and right now, is that I need to let go of other people’s expectations and ideas for my life and just live it.



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  1. #1 by arcticwren on February 24, 2011 - 10:13 am

    I say eat dessert whenever you feel like it. Just make sure it’s not *all* you eat!

    Seriously, I could write a book about uncertainty after long periods of stability. I have a feeling many of us could… but no one would want to read it! Just know, even down at the level that’s freaking out the most, that “things” seem to have a habit of working out (although not necessarily in the way or to the conclusion we had been hoping/expecting). Sometimes it’s even better than we thought it would be, and the not knowing that can be the best part of the experience.

    And yes, I know you didn’t need/weren’t looking for that kind of validation, but I’m a mom and its ingrained in me to come up with some kind of “you can do it, kiddo!” response whenever I come across any kind of questioning or personal ambiguity.

    Ok, now go ahead and have that cookie. Or better yet, peach cobbler. Ala mode.

    • #2 by My Reflecting Pool on February 24, 2011 - 4:38 pm

      Mmmmm peach cobbler. That sounds so good right now!

      I’ve had other times in my life where I’ve been in the same kind of place of uncertainty but they were always in response to big changes in someone else’s life (mostly, my X). This time it’s because of choices I’m making; I’ve made an active decision to not apply for jobs all over the country and that is going to limit my possibilites for more acceptable jobs. (The general idea of getting a Ph.D. is that when you finish you move to whatever backwater corner of the country is willing to give you a job.) I’ve moved a lot and I am finally living someplace where I am happy and have a good social network. I don’t want to uproot that again.

      Anyway, that is probably a topic for a whole new post! I do appreciate the “you can do it!” mantra and I do need the validation. So thanks. 🙂

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