If March 2011 was your last month to live, how would you live it?
I literally groaned when I read this prompt, much in the same way my students often groan when I tell them that peer reviews are not optional. The timing for this prompt couldn’t have been worse – it came in just as I nailed down the date for my dissertation defense: April 1st.
How could I write about not living to see April 1st?
So I resigned myself to skip it entirely.
Then Emerald City Comicon happened and my perspective started to change.
I won’t wax poetic (again) about the event because, really, the perspective change only had a little to do with meeting Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton. It was really about realizing the value of the work I’ve done and how important it is to me.
The thing is it doesn’t really matter what happens on April 1st. I finished the dissertation and submitted it to the graduate school for review. They said the formatting looks really good, and I am ready to go.
And better than simply finishing it, I am pleased with the outcome.
Now that is something I never expected to say. There is a saying in academia, “The only good dissertation is a done dissertation,” and there is a lot of truth to that. 50% of the people that make it to the point where I am now fail. They don’t finish at all and instead of the coveted Ph.D. behind their names they have ABD (All But Dissertation). It’s not an official title in any way but it is a reality for many people who pursue this path.
So I pretty much figured I’d just write my way out from under this albatross and get finished with this degree and then move on. I am not even sure I want to keep writing academically, but that is a story for another post. During such an event filled weekend, where I again embraced my geeky-ness with total and utter abandon, I realized the journey is what is important. I’ve come this far and I’ve done something that makes me proud. Hopefully, my committee feels the same way and they bestow upon me the title “doctor” on April Fool’s Day.
The end of this month could come and I could meet my end knowing that I had spent my time researching something important to me, and along the way I met some great people and made new friends I never would have known otherwise. Better than that, I learned so much about myself in the process, about who I am as a writer and thinker and an academic. Although it’s hardly poetry, I’d like to think that I’ve chosen every word with care and consideration, planning and mapping it all out with the kind of precision that poetry demands.
Even now, having the draft done and getting ready for the defense, I feel parts of myself returning: my desire to cook and bake, and visit with friends and family, and to game just for fun. This new life is opening up for me and I’m looking forward to the next part of my journey, even if I am unsure where my next job is going to be or what that future actually looks like. Just finishing the dissertation is an accomplishment regardless of the title that it will bestow upon me. I told myself early on to “trust the process” and I have that motto emblazoned on the bookcase in my office (right next to my poster of Rosie the Riveter eternally reminding me, “We can do it!”)
So I guess the take away message here ties into a sense of living in the moment, embracing what you have instead of worrying about what is to come. Sheesh. I feel like I have to keep learning and re-learning that same lesson over and over again. I’m sure I’ll forget again.