Thursday, March 30, 2017

The hay is in the barn: standing at the .2 of graduate school

When I used to run marathons, reaching the taper meant "the hay is in the barn:" all of the intense training was done, and it was just a couple of weeks of maintenance before the big day. It was always so exciting to get through the "monster month" of training: a time of high mileage and intensity. The monster month was the point when everything came together, and getting through it meant slamming the door on the hard part. When they ha was in the barn, it meant recovering from the intensity and trying to get the body geared up so that on race day, you felt fresh and ready to go.

The hay is in the barn. I am defending my dissertation on April 12th, and have submitted the written dissertation to my committee. No more edits. I've written, edited, revised, thrown out the bad parts, cleaned up the prose, and had it vetted by four professors. The only thing standing in front of me graduating in May is a two-hour oral defense, in which my committee and two outside examiners will ask me to discuss my research. I'm pinching myself, mainly because the dream of getting a Ph.D.,  one that I've had since 2004, during the first semester of my freshman year at the College of the Holy Cross, is about to become a reality.

Decades of a life-long education is coming to a conclusion before my eyes. Yes, I know, those who love to learn never stop learning. But the daily rigors of school: of writing, studying, meeting with professors, all of that is almost over. And I'm keenly aware of of the "lasts" that have been coming up.

On Tuesday, I had my last meeting with my advisor - the last time I'd seek her out as my professor. We met in 2008, when I was 22 and bright-eyed, both optimistic and terrified. We chatted yesterday about the parameters of the defense: what to prepare for and things to think about in the coming weeks. She asked how I was feeling, now that I had submitted the written product. "To be honest," I said, "It may not be polite to say, but I feel pretty good." I don't say that out of arrogance, but rather, the department only lets you defend when they are truly convinced that you're ready. They put all of these hurdles up, and if you can get through them without knocking them down, it's game time. So, yes, I have a lot of work to do to prepare, but it's game time. The two hours of the defense will certainly be challenging (and yes, there are lots of butterflies), but I'm also excited for the big day. I have a countdown on my calendar, and as the days slip by, the anticipation builds. 

I'm at the .2 of graduate school, but really, I'm about to toe the line of the big race and trading in my racing flats for heels.

Less than 2 weeks to go, and lots of fluttering.