I have written this post so many times in my head but just haven't made time to sit down and write it for real. I'M DONE! In the past three months I finished my dissertation, bought a new house in Arizona, and graduated with my Ph.D! I must admit that it still feels a bit surreal. I'm not sure when it will start to feel real but not even putting on that robe and celebrating with everyone made it feel real. Perhaps it's all that comes next that makes it feel surreal - the summer work, the packing, the moving, the goodbyes - but for whatever reason it just doesn't seem real yet.
Completing a doctorate is an exercise in perseverance, jumping through all the hoops you are given takes determination and endurance. Preliminary exams, qualifying paper, completing coursework, comprehensive exams, proposal defense, and finally defending your dissertation. In the midst of it, you just move from one hoop to the next, staying focused and completing the task. You apply for jobs while you're hoop jumping, but your mind is still consumed with all you still have to complete. Once you get a job you rejoice, but you still have to finish that dissertation and graduate. There's just always one more thing to get done, but then finally it's DONE. I guess like many things in life it's hard to believe when you've finally walked across the finish line, but the marathon is complete and you've earned your doctorate!
It's been a long journey and I am so grateful for all I've learned, for the people I've met, and for the time I've had here in Virginia. I am most grateful for all the family and friends who prayed, supported, and encouraged me during this process. It was so wonderful to have my grandparents and uncle from Missouri here for graduation and to celebrate with friends in Charlottesville and Richmond. I'm excited for my move to Arizona, but I am not ready to say goodbye and I am not ready for another transition period. I leave 4 weeks from Saturday. Time to start saying good goodbyes so I can say good hellos.
It's official...my mom and I can put a 26.2 sticker on our cars! We finished our marathon in 7 hours and 12 minutes. We kept a steady pace and finished! For the most part it was pretty straight forward and easy to complete. But then there were the growing blisters on the bottom of my feet. Around mile 14 I realized I was getting blisters on the bottom of my feet and it was starting to get a little painful. At mile 16, we paused, switched socks and I put a baggie in my shoe to try and minimize the friction. At mile 20, our race director (aka dad) had gone to get moleskin and affixed it to the bottoms of my feet. The blisters on the bottom of my feet were so bad, they told me not to look at them till I was done. I also had blisters around my heels but we decided not to put mole skin on them because given where they were it might make it worse. At mile 22, one of the blisters that did not get mole skin popped, and it hurt so much I might have screamed a little bit, maybe. But, I kept putting one foot in front of the other, and moved through it. Our race director surprised us with some motivation at mile 23 by getting on his megaphone and encouraging us to walk faster. By mile 25 we were so close to home we jogged the last half mile because it hurt less than walking on my feet. AND at mile 26.2, my favorite words from the RunKeeper app was spoken "Workout Complete". We did it!
It was so much fun to do this walk and not near as boring or hard as either of us were expecting. Yes, it was hard, but what made it hard was the blisters. I trained for 15 weeks, learned how to care for my feet, and did everything I was supposed to do the day of the marathon. I wore the same socks and shoes I had worn on my long walks without incident. I didn't change my gait or pace. And yet, I still got these massive, painful blisters. It reminded me that no matter how well I plan or lay out what I want in life, I am still not in control. I can train, take precautions, and still things are not always going to go the way I want. And yet, I have to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. Lately I have been feeling like I am never going to finish my dissertation. I feel like I'm at mile 22 and a blister has popped and I want to quit. I know I have to keep moving and that if I do so I can finish jogging. But, right now it really hurts and I'm not quite sure how I'm going to finish it, but I know my mom can't carry me so I've got to keep going one step at a time as fast as I am able.
I am still in a little state of disbelief that I actually completed a marathon, but I did! We did! And I am so grateful to have had the health and ability to do so and even more grateful to have done it with my mom! I'm hoping after the next two months I can say the same about my dissertation.
My dissertation defense date is set...March 28th at 1:00pm. I have been writing away on my dissertation all year, and yet I am not finished. It seems with every two steps forward, I take one step back. I finish one chapter and realize I have to edit another one, or I look at my results and find something new that has to be addressed in the discussion, or the abstract, or the literature review. I was hoping to have at least a full rough draft of my dissertation when I walked my marathon, but it is looking like that is not going to happen and I must admit that I am extremely disappointed. However, with two steps forward and one step back, I'm still one step ahead of where I was before.
One of the more difficult things about writing my dissertation is finding time to work on it. It seems like everything else pulls on my time - research assistant work, conference preparations and planning, job interviews, meetings with advisors. All of these things are important, but bottom line my dissertation has to be done by March 14th. So, I'm starting to realize I'm going to have to carve out time in my schedule and protect it. Sadly this is something I've been trying to do since I got back from the beach with little success. So, how am I going to get it done? How do I keep all these balls in the air and still finish on time? I think the first step is to give myself some grace and not be too disappointed that I didn't finish by my self-appointed deadline. The second step is to focus on my dissertation at the beginning of the week rather than the end. The past few weeks I've been marking off Thursdays and Fridays for dissertation work, but inevitably something comes up to intrude on that time. So, I'm hoping if I focus on my dissertation during the first days of the week I might be able to guard that time more effectively. Sounds silly, but it's worth a try! The third step is to just buckle down and write. I know what is left, I just need to break it down into manageable pieces and get it written.
So, the date is set, the plan is there, and all is left is to finish writing.... wish me luck.