Step one on the way to the defense: we (my little family) made it all the way to the East Coast. We’ve been enjoying some sights, struggling through the kids’ school work, and sort of adjusting to the time difference. Mostly we’ve ended up at Chipotle and the hotel pool.
What else I’ve been doing to prepare: I’ve read William Germano’s From Dissertation to Book to help me think through the inevitable portion of the defense that focuses on this topic. I mostly can’t imagine wanting to touch the dissertation again. I’ve imagined gritting my teeth and faking my way through that conversation. But Germano’s book helped me think through some ways that I might approach a revision of the manuscript and gave me a framework for re-reading my dissertation before the defense.
What I still need to do: (1) re-read the dissertation. I’ve got five days, so a chapter a day seems reasonable, though I might want to read it faster to have more of a sense of the continuity (or lack thereof). (2) prepare an “opening statement.” The first soft-pitch question will ask how I came to such an interesting topic. My advisor suggested that I can also use the time to bring up questions I hope to discuss in the defense and to head off some issues I’d rather leave alone. (3) read two reviews of a book I cite that I don’t have a great handle on. Clearly, this is not the time to do more research. However, I cite a big text by a big author, and I can only describe in the broadest terms what the book is about. I little review reading will put my mind at rest, I think.
So, dear readers. Any advice as I head into the final days before the defense? Any preparation tips? Advice for the defense itself?
I finally submitted my dissertation to my committee late last night. My six-year-old daughter has been looking forward to my finishing for a long time, and I keep promising to be done and not actually being done. So last night she requested that I wake her up when I finished. She smiled with her eyes closed, gave me a hug, and went back to sleep. This morning we had pancakes to celebrate, and then she and I made sugar cookies for a little party that was supposed to include a Hoedown at which we danced the Macarena, but it got too late and we forgot. So we danced the Macarena in her bed. (Btw–just read a translation of the lyrics–not really kid appropriate!)
Do I feel relief? Kind of. I’m definitely getting more rested. Today I got to swim and do yoga without rushing to get to something else. But the rest of life hasn’t suddenly gotten easier. My house is still Clutter Central, my fridge desperately needs cleaning out, my son still cried for a portion of the afternoon (this year has been a hard year so far), and I’m behind on my copyediting homework.* And I still feel like it’s not quite over. I do have the defense in two weeks, and I’m sure I’ll need to make some more changes afterward. I am thankful that I have the opportunity to change a few things, especially since my abstract is pretty sucky at the moment.
I am grateful to have relief from the pressure of a big deadline. And I’m sure as I uncoil over the next few days and begin to relax more, I’ll notice how much lighter I feel.
*Yes. Somehow I thought it was a good idea to take a copyediting class the semester I finished my dissertation. And then I got a B- on my first assignment. I’m rethinking that choice a little bit.