Posted by: mindyourknitting | May 7, 2009


All But Dissertation.  That’s what they call people like me.  People who have spent a decade or so working on a PhD and have completed all requirements except the thesis.  This decade has followed a half-decade spent getting a Bachelor of Arts and a Master’s Degree, so I have been in school forever.  For.  Ever.  I dutifully completed the course work and soul-destroying comprehensive exams required in my doctoral program, but have been stuck on the small matter of a 300-page thesis for years now.  It pains me to write that – years.  I am still passionate about my thesis subject, and moreover I think my thesis topic is important with a capital “I”, but I have found it difficult to get down to business.  This was the case even before I got a full-time job, got married, and had a baby.  Oh, I say wistfully, it would be so easy to blame it on the baby.  But it’s really not her fault, her mama was a malingerer long before she came along.  I think about my 22-year old self who was so determined to finish my doctorate in four years, and I want to pat her on the head and give her milk and cookies and send her on her naive way.  So many things have gotten in the way of working on my thesis, and I let them.

 And now when people ask me about the PhD (and in my head it always sounds accusatory, like why, why haven’t you finished yet??), I am terribly uncomfortable with the question.  I usually say something about how I’m working on it, or that I’m currently on mat leave from my program (true) but what I really want to say is “what business is it of yours?  Is there something you’ve been trying to complete for years, something that means a lot to you in some ways and not as much as you thought it would at this point in your life in others, and can I ask you what you’re doing about that thing right now while you’re juggling several other things and changing a diaper?”  Nope, I’m not sensitive about this at all.

 Of course I want to finish, but I’m not sure I need to finish in the same way I used to need to (jeebus I hope my thesis advisor never reads this…not that it would really be a surprise to him at this point.  Remember, he’s been my advisor forever).  Part of my brain doesn’t care anymore and feels quite fulfilled with my job, home, and family, and the other part screams that I will be letting the intellectual part of me wither and die if I give it up (although that could just be the fallout from reading Twilight), and won’t I be bitterly disappointed about spending all that time and money for nothing?  I try hard to get that part to shut the hell up, especially when I think about the thousands I’ve spent on tuition. This is the one thing in my life that has been left undone.  I’m very proud of the life I’ve created for myself, and sometimes feel like maybe I’ve done enough hard slogging to get an education and establish a career and maybe I should be able to just sit back and enjoy my life.  But the fact that I keep trying to find ways to squeeze in a couple of hours of note-taking tells me something different.

 Do you have that one thing in your life that is hard to do, but so important that you can’t just forget about it?  Something that causes such conflicting emotions?  Something that was incredibly important at one point, and then things changed?  And maybe it’s still really important to you?  What did you do?


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