Archive for category Thinking about It

How does it feel?

This is the question of the week: how does it feel?

If you’ve been following my journey at all, you’ll probably guess this question is in response to having finished the dissertation, had all the forms and ballots turned in, and officially completing my Ph.D.

How does it feel?

Completely unreal.

There’s a great amount of relief to being done, to not having my committee tell me to write another chapter or that some part of my dissertation wasn’t good enough.  There’s a lot of fear, still, in wondering what is next and where I will be working, especially in light of having one of my summer sections canceled.  (The first time EVER that I have lost a section of online teaching which is proof that the budget in CA is in serious trouble and that it’s probably time to move on from a part time job I’ve had for almost a decade.)  There’s some sadness, too, in being finished with such a big project that I poured so much of myself into over the last five years.

And lastly, and most importantly, there is joy.  Bright, happy, shiny joy and it sits like a glowing light somewhere in the core of my being.

It’s funny – I’m always at the ready to talk about the difficult things I’m going through in my life but I stumble over myself to talk about the good things.  I don’t know if it’s that self-effacing tendency women have to not take joy in their accomplishments or if on some level that perfectionist in me will always hold on to the “you’re not good enough” vibe but I was struck by this today when one of my former students ran up to me to hug me and say congrats and she asked THE question and I just stared at her.

It’s too much and nothing at all at the same time: relief, fear, sadness, and joy?  What kind of soup does that make?

The completely unreal soup of life.


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50 Things that Make me Feel Normal

I am participating in a new writing group (or trying to at least since it seems they are more of an east coast group.)  It’s called Silent Writers and the call is to write for an hour a week silently.  It’s Tuesday nights at 9pm.  Usually, I’ve thought about something I want to write about or at least formed some words in my head.

But all my words right now bounce around my head to the theme of OMG APRIL IS EIGHT WEEKS AWAY!  See, I am scheduling my dissertation defense for the first week of April and I have a lot to do before then and it’s kinda freaking me out.

So then I saw a couple of posts on a theme: 50 things that make you feel normal.  Here is the original and the first one I read.  Both are from excellent blog writers and I enjoy reading their stuff very much.  In an effort to be more Zen and in the moment which is never easy for me, I am going to attempt to do this as unedited as possible.  So here goes:

1.  Eating an orange.
2.  Snuggling with Jasmine by my side.
3.  Breathing.
4.  Having dinner with Chris and catching up on our days.
5.  Feeling the warmth of the sun on my face knowing so many people are experience snowpocolype across the country.
6.  Missing snow days.
7.  Typing/writing my thoughts down free form.
8.  Writing for school.
9.  Prepping for class.
10.  Teaching when I feel crappy and remembering why I am doing this.
11.  Wool/cotton blend socks.
12.  Fleece slippers.
13.  Flannel pajama pants.
14.  Drinking water.
15.  Looking at pictures from NZ.
16.  Drawing.
17.  Painting.
18.  Laughing.
19.   Sighing.
20.  Sleeping on my back and snoring.
21.   The weight of my book-bag on my shoulder.
22.  My water bottle.
23.  Matilda’s meow.
24.  A hug from Chris.
25.  The hum from the heater.
26.  Watering plants.
27.  Singing.
28.  Buying daffodils at the grocery store.
29.  Pie.
30.  Wine.
31.  CHEESE.  (Wow, I can’t believe it took me this long to think of cheese!)
32.  Netflix.
33.  Talking to my mom.
34.  Texting Julie or Kathleen.
35.  Walking to class, especially in anticipation of great discussions of literature or lit theory.
36.  My red coat.
37.  Listening to the Glee soundtrack in the car and singing at the top of my lungs without a hint of shame.
38.  Tea.  (Home brewed from loose leaf only.)
39.  Coffee. (Preferably made by someone else and all fancy with cinnamon on top.)
40.  Chocolate cupcakes with white frosting.
41.  Oatmeal.
42.  Vacuuming.
43.  Washing laundry (but not folding or putting it away).
44.  Dancing.
45.  Yoga.
46.  Watching The Guild.
47.  Reading.
48.  Loving, physically and emotionally.
49.  Gaming and giggling with good friends.
50.  Knowing that with all I know I still have so much to learn.

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I shouldn’t care

But I do.

I’ve continued reflecting on my recent trip home to see my family.  As I mentioned in a post from the weekend, it wasn’t an easy visit mostly because of heath issues my mom and my brother are facing.

But there were other issues as well.  I don’t really feel like my family of origin understands me.  I know many people feel that way and over the years I’ve come to accept that they think I’m just, well, crazy.  I can live with that.  Most days.

I am not sure why I am so sensitive to this right now but I can’t help but balk at a short discussion I had with my brother.  We were at dinner and I mentioned that I was graduating from the Ph.D. program this spring.  My brother’s girlfriend said, “Oh we thought you were going to be a professional student!”

And my brother said, “You just took the words right out of my mouth!”  Then he laughed.

It’s difficult enough getting a Ph.D., and it’s not a road I’d go down again if I had the choice.  But the thing is I *am* a professional student.  Because what that means is that I am working on making teaching and research my profession while jumping through the hoops that are set up for me to finish the doctorate.

All through the Ph.D. program I’ve had three part time jobs.  I’ve taught three courses a year at my university, I’ve been working on my research, and I’ve taught online for a community college.  On average, I’ve taught over 100 students a semester.  Many of the other “professional students” in my cohort maybe teach 25.  What does that boil down to?  I’ve been working my ass off.

It’s a delicate balancing act, keeping up with the demands of my teaching and research at the same time.  I’ve managed it pretty well I think, not letting the days when I wanted to throw the towel in get me down too bad and working on the dissertation even when I wasn’t 100% sure what I was doing or what I wanted to say.

So it’s a particular slap in the face to have my status as a professional student be made a joke.  I kick myself now because I didn’t say anything at the time; I was somewhat dumbfounded when I realized that they were both, essentially, looking down on me and judging me, making fun of some difficult choices I’ve made.  I don’t believe the Ph.D. makes me smarter than anyone else; it is simply a road I chose to wander down and hoops I’ve chosen to jump through.  It does, however, rank me in a very small population. According to the 2000 census, less than 1% of the U.S. population holds a doctorate like the one I’m finishing this year (a research based degree, not counting medical doctors or dentists).

So no, I really shouldn’t care that my brother and his girlfriend think it’s a joke, especially since I know it takes most people an average of five years to complete a Ph.D.  What’s that, you say?  How long has it taken me?  This is my fifth year, and I’m on track to finish.  Well, I would be if I was spending this time working on the dissertation and not writing about my annoying family.