Well, this is a rough approximation of my dissertation withdrawal process. Turning in my dissertation has not been an immediate relief. Kind of like getting released from prison isn’t freedom.
I worked from 8am to 10pm the very last day. I was caffeinated all day. I didn’t really eat dinner. I sent it right before it started snowing. And few hours later, the power was out. Close call!
First. Exhaustion mixed with the the dwindling supply of adrenaline and mania that fed the last few days. Coming down, and trying to let go into feeling tired and relieved.
Second. But I wasn’t relieved. I was (and am) afraid that this dissertation is in fact not “good enough.” I always thought when people expressed reservations about passing their defense after truing in their dissertation, they were just doing it for show. How could you not be sure by that point? Now I understand. The fear is real. And my capacity to clearly perceive where I am at has been eroded by the sheer stress of the final push. Anyway, I’ve talked it through with other people, and I feel somewhat reassured that I will at least pass my defense. It seems politically impossible for them to fail me. BUT WHAT IF THEY DID? The EMBARRASSMENT! There are real weaknesses and problems. With a clearer head (when will that come?) I hope to assess what they are and be prepared to address them at the defense. Still, uncertainty is a dominant feeling at this point.
Third. All the ins and outs of my relationship to my committee start to come to the surface. I’m realizing all the particularities of my relationship with my adviser and its strengths and weaknesses. I am wondering, what could I have done differently? What could she have done differently? Kind of like a break up.
Fourth. More exhaustion. Feeling it even more as I come down. Brain is fried and can’t focus on anything. Also, I am starving. I realize that my diet hasn’t been ideal the past month or two.
Fifth. What to do first? I need to delay jury duty. I need to tour Piper’s kindergarten. I need to do laundry. I need to return all the clothes I bought online while I was writing my dissertation. I need a haircut. I need to schedule a contractor to repair the bathroom. I need to … just a million things. They aren’t urgent; they have waited this long. But suddenly thinking about doing them all is kind of overwhelming. Where to begin? Plus, life doesn’t stop. You imagine that when you finish, you will just suddenly be free to do everything you have put off. But really there is very little time in a day to do random shit, even when you are done. Also, getting back into my share of the childcare isn’t as easy as one would hope.
Sixth but who’s counting anymore. Wait, there are more deadlines. Article revisions. Need to actually print the diss and deliver and mail it. Need to submit it to grad school. Need to do a travel grant application. Need to write conference paper. Some of this requires going back to that frantic pace. So, I’m not quite free (yet?).
And. The big questions, which have certainly been brewing during the dissertation writing, but now I have time to really start considering them. What are my chances of a job? Where will we live? Do I like this career enough? Can I hack it–it is going to get harder after grad school? Should I pursue a Plan B? If so, how? How will Josh and I negotiate how we prioritize his job and my aspirations for a job? Finishing the dissertation is the beginning not the end!! Like child birth! I’m just kind of overwhelmed at getting started.
In short: Tired. Overwhelmed. Disappointed. Stressed. All the same feelings as before I turned it in!!!
I know this sounds depressing. There are good things, just as there were good things while I was writing. I have a new confidence in how much work I can do. I have the dissertation done, an article ready to publish, a conference with a famous commenter coming up, another conference proposal I am confident in, lots of new research ideas. I don’t have to face the dissertation everyday any more. And I am taking a real vacation in an actual warm place far away from here very soon.
I think it is just going to take me a while to recover and get back some energy, which really impacts my mindset. I feel like I really enjoyed most of the past 6 months of intensive dissertation writing, but there was a tipping point where the pressure took over. And now I’m trying to regain my foothold.