Well, really, I’ve been officially done for a while now. Somehow not everyone got the message that November was supposed to be a restful and rejuvenating month for me. Life went on. And all the many, many things I had neglected in the past year needed attention. I finally got a week of full rest (read: we stayed at my parents’ and my mom took care of all of us) after Christmas. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The defense itself was wonderful. My primary advisor was encouraging and steady as always. He made a point to say that the dissertation had really come together in the three months before the defense. My third reader, whom I had not previously met, was lovely and very enthusiastic about my work. My secondary advisor managed to miss my defense altogether. He had it written down for the next day. We had the defense anyway–a 45 minute discussion–and my advisor reported that it had gone “very smoothly.”
The following day, I met with my secondary advisor to have an informal mini-defense and to have him sign my signature page (which I then dropped off in my advisor’s box on my way to the airport, which he got signed, and which his assistant sent over to the graduate school). We had a good chat, helpful to me and to him, I think.
My family picked me up post-defense so we could have pizza before trading off–my husband had meetings all afternoon, and I had the kids. After lunch, I took the kids to the local library to work on their school work. I think someone forgot to tell them that I had just become a doctor of learning. They both ended up on the floor of the library crying and refusing to do their work.
Post-library-fiasco, I had a great meeting with the jobs person in our department, and we created a plan if I should want to go on the job market any time soon. Post-meeting, the family and I had a lovely dinner out with friends to celebrate.
The final stretch
I managed to stall out and neglect my final changes for over a month, but turned everything in by the deadline. In retrospect, I wish I had plowed through the final editing quickly; having the last bit hanging over my head was more stressful that I imagined it would be.
The final panic
Just to check, and because smart people who graduated before me said I should, I called the graduate school a few days before my final deadline to make sure I had everything taken care of. Words of doom: “Everything’s here! Except. We just need your signature page.” WHAT?!?!? I’d had an email at the end of October that the signature page had been submitted.
Fortunately, our graduate department admin is amazing. She ended up walking over to the graduate school (they weren’t answering phones) to find out that the signature page was indeed in the office, but hadn’t yet been scanned. Phew! Disaster not real!
I’m taking a sabbatical. (My sabbatical committee of one (spouse) suggested it and requires no documentation.) My sabbatical project is to figure out what’s next. But first, as in all good sabbaticals, I’m ignoring my project and recovering. I’m still sorting through all the neglected things from the past few years. Today, I’m bravely entering my office to try to make it more habitable. I’ve been doing some writing, playing some music, knitting some sweaters, watching some movies. But mostly, I’m reconnecting with my family.
They all have carried some of my stress. My husband bears it willingly and well. My son has had a hard six months–he’s an external processor, and I all but stopped talking about important things with him. Winter break with him was very good. We stayed up talking late into the night many nights. He’s calmer and braver these days. My daughter has missed me. She’s a project girl, and while I have little patience for her projects on a normal day, dissertation days didn’t allow for any. So we’ve been baking brownies from scratch, knitting, sewing, stretching tiny rubber bands on the Rainbow Loom, and singing the songs from Frozen at the top of our lungs. All of which I’m actually enjoying. Except the Rainbow Loom.
I think it will take me a while to feel like I can look at my dissertation again. It’s not as far from a book as it could be–my secondary advisor really pushed me to make it book-like before the defense. But I’m weighing carefully whether I can make the effort in a way that doesn’t overtake the rest of the things in my life. I’m considering trying to teach a class here and there–it’s been a while since I’ve been in a classroom–but the idea of having to be somewhere at a certain time right now sounds terrible.
I’m thinking I need more time. It’s a season of resting and waiting–tending to the weeds that have grown up and planting some cover crops–ones that grow quickly to protect the soil and will be tilled into the soil to restore it.