Facing Facts

Today, hopefully, after washing a ton of dishes, and cleaning the kitchen (I found 2 liquid, yes liquid, tomatoes on the kitchen counter yesterday. It was gross. Clearly, it is time to do something about the state of things in there), having brunch with our best friends who we only get to see about once a week these days, and since it is trash night – cleaning out the refrigerator (if there are liquid tomatoes out in plain view, lord only knows what is hidden in its depths), THEN I can do some dissertation work.

I spent most of this week in house/office/course prep getting ready for the semester. And I’ve pretty much been doing it on my own. The office/course stuff is, of course, mine only, but the house has kind of fallen to me since this past two to three weeks has been the busiest time of the whole year for Spousal Unit at the Big Science Thingey. He’s been prepping for this for six months or so. And, in the past 48 hours, he slept a grand total of 2. The last time the man was in a bed for any significant period of time was Thursday night. Needless to say, trivial things like checking the counter produce and vacuuming have pretty much fallen off his radar. Even important things like 11th wedding anniversaries (yesterday) have also gotten pushed aside for his work. We’ll go out and celebrate when this whole thing is done, so I can’t really complain, but I want to just a little because I’m feeling a little abandoned and a lot overwhelmed. Anyway, all of these big house things needed to be done, I know, otherwise I’d start the semester off feeling just nuts about how disorganized and chaotic things were, but it has still taken a good chunk out of my last few weeks of dissertation time.

I’m also pretty unhappy to have to face up to the fact that I am not going to be done with my dissertation before the semester starts. It had been my goal, so that I could start the semester off unburdened by it. But, I’ve been burdened with it for a decade, so I don’t know why this semester should really be any different. Anyway, I am disappointed in myself for not pulling this off. And, I’m beginning to have trouble believing that it will ever really be done. (Astute readers may have noticed that I’ve stopped counting the days. It was only reminding me of how little progress I was making.) It really depresses me because I feel like I’m so far behind, and that Everybody Else is doing better work than I am. And then I have to remind myself that this is not a race. It is not a competition. And if it were, I’m last — I’m the last one in my entering graduate class to finish. Most of the other folks finished long ago, the last few stragglers other than me wound things up this past semester. But, that means that the pressure is off. Nobody here left to run against, just me and the wind.

Anyway, the fact of the matter is that I am not done. I won’t be done in two weeks when the semester begins. So, I have to figure out how I am going to finish. I do not want to jeopardize this amazing chance I have to teach at a place where I want to be, doing what I love, in the same state as my spouse. It just never happens in academia, and I am not going to squander this gift. But, I think it is going to mean that in the next couple of weeks I have to do some intense introspection to figure out what I can do and what I can’t. I’ll have to do some careful planning and significant time management, and get over this disappointment in my summer progress so that I can just get on with it and get it done.

10 responses to “Facing Facts

  1. Buck up, Stewgad. You may not finish the diss before school starts, but you will finish it before the end of the fall semester. You will. Do NOT continue to beat yourself up over what didn’t get done over the summer. Many, many, many things DID get done. You accomplished many things and the accomplishments will continue. One day at a time, bird by bird, and all that. And repeat after me: “I’m finishing the diss this semester. I’m finishing the diss this semester. I’ll be done with diss in December. I’ll be done with the diss in December.”

  2. New Kid on the Hallway

    First – I had the liquid tomato thing earlier this semester, and man, was it GROSS! Ewww. Am trying to avoid that happening again (although chances are good that it will).

    Second – I second entirely what lucyrain says! And you can and will finish it in your first semester on the job. I actually got quite a lot of my dissertation done the first year I was on the job (that was the year I finished – I submitted it about week after final grades were due in the spring). I won’t go through all the stuff about going through your schedule and scheduling time etc. etc. b/c I’m sure you know all that, but you will be able to get it done.

    Oh, and I’ve been completely impressed by how much you’ve got done this summer!

  3. I agree completely with Lucyrain and New Kid–don’t be so hard on yourself! Just look at everything you got done this summer, by setting this deadline. No, you didn’t meet it, but you’re that much closer, making it much more likely that you’ll meet the next one.

    Also, you have what sounds like an awesome job, so you’re clearly a winner when it comes to the only part of the academic race that really matters (gainful, satisfying employment). I’m assuming that your job is giving you a year to be degree-in-hand? At this rate, you’ll make it. Might be worth making up a list of all the things you have to do in order to be done, including all the dumb formatting and cite-checking parts, breaking them down into monthly goals. If you plan on being done by, say, December, then even if you miss that deadline–you’ll still be done by April!

    But in any case, just remember that you’re already an academic success; the diss is just the licensing requirement.

  4. ditto, ditto, ditto!!! Lots of wisdom and support in these comments.

  5. More ditto from me too. And you have a great, organized and clean nest to come home to and to go to work to in the morning — and it is not a cage!

  6. Just a note to say I’m right there with you. I had hoped to have much, much more of my dissertation done by the time that my classes started, but now I’m having to deal with the fact that I didn’t reach my benchmarks. I agree with you that the only thing to do is accept the progress that we have made and move on: bemoaning the number of pages I have certainly isn’t helping me produce more pages. Best of luck, and thanks for your blog.

  7. Yep, your summer looks like a success to me. You made huge progress, and you will be able to put to use everything you have been working on. I’m excited for your students. They will be lucky to have you! And you’ll finish! No doubt!!!

  8. oooops. Sorry! My computer was slow, and I clicked “Login and Publish” a few times. Oh well. I meant it when I said your students will be lucky to have you!

  9. Ditto to all the other comments out there. I’ve been working for years while dissertating, and ironically enough, I seem to be most productive on my dissertation *while* teaching/working. I learned to schedule strict Dissertation Time, which, by necessity, pushed Teaching Time into smaller and smaller chunks as my teaching was more “in the can.”

    Since you can’t do it all, you have to prioritize, organize, etc. Some great ideas from others. Don’t be a hero and all that. But the silver lining to all this? I’ve found that I’ve learned how to do scholarship AND teach. At the SAME TIME. Sad to say, but finishing your dissertation (while a HUGE accomplishment) is the first step to future scholarship, etc… much of which will be accomplished while you teach. So when you think about other projects in the future, you will already have developed skills and a routine to allow you to be both a scholar and a kick-ass teacher. Again, that’s the silver-lining kind of approach to this… but we all need silver linings!

  10. Thanks, guys for the encouraging words. You all inspire me.

    And a big Pretty Hard Dammit welcome to Caleb, verdade, and The Gardner!

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