...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Sunday, December 01, 2013

I'm baaaack!

Hey you guys out there in cyberspace!

Yes, yet another whole month has gone by, now it's the first of Advent. I have been thinking for weeks that I should write about how wonderful it is to be momentarily) free from the stress of writing my thesis introduction. Is is liberating it is to re-discover projects like cooking and exercise after my month of hermitage, yet it is also strange it is to just sit and wait for comments to come. (They will come, in a seminar this Thursday). I guess I was too busy enjoying myself though — or alternatively, recovering from the college equivalent of "hell month" — to blog earlier. At the back of my mind, I also know I deserve to make the most of this breather before the next intensive ride. During the slow days when I wasn't working too much, I realized that I actually missed that feeling of not being pressed to produce and achieve, and have the right to just be. With all due respect to wanting to keep a productive work ethic, there was really no reason to feel guilty about going home at 3pm when I had nothing more to do. Everybody knows there will be enough work to fill the days of the short months to come. I'll soon be doing the final intensive revisions before the thesis goes to press, and will publicly defend five year's worth of work in March.

A colleague and I were discussing how PhD candidates and junior academicians are generally bad at giving themselves credit. We're used to constantly working on draft after draft, with two articles or so in parallel. After burning the candles at both ends to a piece of text, we send the manuscript in. We think to ourselves: "Hmm, it's not bad, but not perfect. Surely the reviewers / supervisors have a lot of things to say about those weak points. Still lots to improve". In a time-pressured publication line, we move on to the new manuscript project until the old draft comes back from review. In the face of the new challenge, there is seldom time to bask in the achievement of your finished draft. It's not something until it's published. When working on a thesis, one published article doesn't even count until you've got four. Those four don't count to a full thesis until you've written your introduction, and all that doesn't count until your thesis defense day. So the achievement of a "mere" draft — of all those agonizing / exciting hours where most of the work goes in burning candles at both ends — seems always overshadowed by the next big thing. The finish line keeps on moving further all the time. But goodness knows we have the right to feel proud and happy and gloat about something being done! Sometimes I see myself from an outsider's perspective and think myself, "Geez, it's not bad what you've achieved given the circumstances," and I feel so proud of myself that I could cry.

So, I write this partly as a future message to myself in the (ahem, excuse the pun) advent of these intensive months ahead. I know my introduction draft isn't perfect. I also know I will get all sorts of comments on Thursday's final seminar. I expect to be working like crazy until February. But that's not the point. That shouldn't give me any reason to devalue the independent work that I've already done, and that shouldn't prevent me now from enjoying the fruit of my work. Or yes, bum around while I may ;-) I needed these three weeks' distance from my thesis manuscript. Life isn't all about work.

In these weeks of not writing actively on my thesis, I almost booked a trip to New York to my old high school friend and celebrate the month when I turned 30. I decided to stay at home though, and just relax and enjoy the November quiet. But yes, in the middle of all this, I also turned 30. It sounds special. It also kind of puts things into perspective. There had been times these past years that I had felt quite old and worn. But turning 30 made me see another sense of beginning. While the end of my dissertation is near and I look to another 10 years to 40 (!), the future is also just opening up, for work and for whatever comes along in life.

P.S. Glad to still see blog comments from folks I don't know, who drop in and think it's fun to read the PhD-related stuff and the other miscellaneous things around here. I will try to write about something not thesis-related the next time, and write more about Sweden again. Keep tuned!

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