Monday, January 26, 2015

"A step forward, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction."

"Don't try to rush progress. Remember - a step forward, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction." Kara Goucher
This was the Runner's World quote of the day e-mail I received a few days ago, citing a time-Olympian and one of the fastest American distance runners. I've been thinking about it a lot, and keeping that mentality in mind as I soldier on in my dissertation.
The last time I posted, I had just arrived to Dayton to begin my two-week research stint there. It was freezing! All of my western NY upbringing has melted away in the six years I've been in DC. There were days when the high was 2 degrees - and I was just shivering. But in the end, there were a lot of positives:

  • It was my first extended research trip
  • I made a lot of extremely valuable professional connections, including some faculty who write in my larger field
  • With the new year freshly-ushered in, it gave me time to re-focus and hunker down to realistically plan out my goals and plan of attack
I had nothing else to do but dissertation work. No laundry, no chores, no cooking (can you now imagine why my husband missed me so much?!) Taking away all of those little responsibilities and expectations just enabled me to clear my head. Leading up to Christmas break, after a semester of teaching and writing, I was feeling pretty burnt out, and unproductive as well. Instead of running in circles, I was writing in circles, and hardly at all. The new year, and new location wiped away the slate and presented a new one, clean and full of possibilities.
I've had people say over the years, "Oh you're so motivated, you run marathons, surely this is a piece of cake." Or, "I know you are so regimented with your running." Or my all-time favorite (said for the upteenth time last week by one of my readers), "A marathon must be harder, right?" No! Looking back, I feel like I practically danced through my marathons. That's not true - I put a lot of hard work into training for them. But even the moments of agony in the marathon have not compared to the agony of the Ph.D. I'm not saying that to be overly-dramatic, but this has given me a lot more heartache, tears, and worry than the marathon ever did. But I digress. The point is, I've always been so regimented with my running and training, and while I had a clear-cut routine in coursework and during my exams, it's been more difficult to have a stable researching and writing routine in ABD-land (all but dissertation). I loved coursework: there was a clear-cut schedule (and a clear end in sight!), and I thrived in that environment (I'm sure that kind of scheduling is why training works well for me). But now it's time to bring in the big guns:
That's my mom, my two aunts (her younger sisters), and me on my wedding day. My aunts have been involved in my life since I was born, and my mom was my first teacher (and is still teaching me a lot...these days, it's how to cook!). They are all go-getters in their own way: my mom successfully raised two children and got us into our dream colleges, Aunt #1 is a successful corporate lawyer in NYC, and Aunt #2 was a powerful executive before she had her children. 
They are my "professional naggers" (I got the term from an actual company -- yes, you can actually pay  someone to call you up to make sure you're doing what you're supposed to do).And I say that knowing they will probably laugh at that title. But they are all so motivated and driven - and know how to keep each other accountable! But in all seriousness, I am keeping them informed on my daily goals, and ultimately, how close did I come to meeting them (and if not, why not). I need that accountability so I can finally cross this finish line!
That's where I am at tonight. Did I exercise today? No. But did I write 4 pages? Yes. So, maybe there weren't as many endorphins released (although I did play outside with my dog in the snow), but the satisfaction of a good writing day is pretty close to a runner's high.
Step by step, page by page, this thing is going to be written.

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