SOOOO…. it’s been a while since I last wrote. Before this long post gets going, let me first say this:
I JUST SENT OUT MY DISSERTATION TO MY COMMITTEE YESTERDAY!
Ok. Now, the story of what happened between the last post, after the meeting with QRG, and yesterday.
In the wake of the QRG showdown, which wasn’t really a showdown, but just a conversation, I came home and started to write up the entire dissertation (the “diss” hereafter). The format was to be a manuscript thesis, so I’d have an introduction chapter, two chapters comprised of two old publications, a methods publication, a journal paper with the current results, and a conclusion. After the QRG meeting, I began to chip away at the methods article chapter, feeling confident that I could get the draft together in about a week after all the prep for the QRG discussion.I also start the scheduling process, after checking with the adviser that it was ok to do so.
Writing takes longer than I expect, of course, and the adviser is globetrotting so I never get time with him on the phone. I keep plowing forward, and three weeks later, I finish the draft, and send it to the advsier. He writes back, saying it looked great, and that I had no excuse not to be an academic (I’d always argued that my challenges with writing would make academia unbearable for me). He offered one grammar change, but that was it. The defense had been scheduled at this point, with 4 out of 5 being ok with the date. The 5th couldn’t make it, but suggested a one-on-one meeting, so it was all good.
Then, I started to get to the “results” article chapter. It was going slowly, but smoothly for the most part. Then, I hear from the 5th professor who couldn’t make the defense. Apparently she was upset about not being included, and wasn’t happy about it. Given the other information I had from another student who talked to her about the defense, she seemed incensed about not being catered to, and that’s why she wasn’t writing me back as I tried to schedule. Geez. So I decide to reschedule if possible, find a new date and time, and escape with only a few of the committee folks being pissed at me for changing the date. Lovely.
Writing continues, the results paper get the ok, and I turn to the introduction. I write intro “A”, it gets rejected by the adviser. It’s now the Sunday before Thanksgiving. I write intro “B”, and then my adviser asks about what’s being frustrating about it. I say, it’s tough to frame the manuscript thesis. After 15 minutes, he says, “I think I want you to reorganize your paper into a traditional format. Not the manuscript thesis.” Bear in mind, this is 3 days before the paper is supposed to go out to the committee.
I say ok, you know this is supposed to go out Friday, right? He says yes, but that the manuscript thesis is too difficult for the reader to understand. Ugh. So I stay up until 3AM writing and reorganizing, and send it off the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
I don’t get anything until 10pm. He gives me 2 paragraphs of feedback. Then says, “You know, you might consider postponing. I know it will be more money, but, you wouldn’t have to fry yourself out trying to meet some arbitrary deadline.”
At this point I lose it and start bawling. And, I tell my husband that I’m quitting. If I can’t defend it when it was scheduled, I was just quitting. He calms me down, and I end up calling my adviser at 10:30 at night, and talk for an hour. He says that it’s not impossible for me to still defend, but that it might just be easier to postpone. I tell him that I’m quitting if it don’t defend in Dec. He says that’s silly. I say that he has no idea how much I’ve sacrificed to get this done, and done now. He says, I know there this a psychological and emotional cost if you don’t defend in December, but in the grand scheme of things no one is dying, etc…. and that I might want to postpone to make sure I sailed through the defense instead of getting hammered by the committee and then him having to say “well, she’s been here for so long, that she just needs to be done, so let’s just pass her.” Lovely. We go back and forth, and finally at the end, he says that I can just write as much as I can until Sunday night, and then we’d decide from there. And ultimately, it was my decision to submit or not, so we could see where we were at on Sunday.
So the next day is Thanksgiving. I get my head in the game, and call him in the morning to discuss his feedback. He says I sound better, and that he didn’t sleep very well because he was worried about me. Forgive me if I wasn’t too sympathetic.
I take a break to have turkey with a friend and her parents, then head back to the office. Say up until 3:30AM, head to bed, get up at 7:30, back to the office. Repeat this routine Saturday. Sunday I stay up until 5:30 Monday morning, then up at 8AM. By this point, intro, theory, methods and results are mostly approved. I am getting pretty tired.
Monday, I write Discussion chapter A. It’s rejected by the adviser. Tuesday I write Discussion chapter B. It’s better than A, but adviser says I can’t prove what I wrote. I stay up to 4:30am both nights. Finally, Tuesday night I write my third discussion chapter, send it to the adviser, and wave the white flag. I say that I’m out of time and energy, and I just need to send this out, and that I would just take the lumps in the defense if the draft wasn’t good enough.
Thursday morning, a week after Thanksgiving and 6 days overdue, he writes back.
First, he says, just to be clear, it’s not your decision when to submit. “Your work reflects on everyone in the group, including me, so the final decision is mine.” So I guess he was lying before, when he said it was ultimately up to me, before Thanksgiving?
Second, he gives me some scathing feedback. Because neither of us had time for “niceties” at this point. But luckily the work was almost finished, if I just made a few final changes. Then I could send it out.
Third, he says that we should talk after this is all over, because of course he wants to learn from this, but he wants to make sure that I take the right lesson away from the whole experience. Which I think was something about not using the deadlines as an excuse to compromise quality or something.
Ugh. I am super upset, and super fried, at this point. My friend E calls, she’s on the ground there, and heard about the email and wanted to make sure I was ok. I wasn’t, and she was an incredible friend in that moment, helping me process, deal, and get the work done. Thanks, E. you totally saved me, in more ways than one!
So, I finally submitted the thing @ 3am Friday morning. E circulated hard copies for me, and I’m still on to defend this coming Friday.
I can’t believe that in the last week, I’ve written about 140 pages, gotten about 4 hours of sleep per night, and dealt with a complete change in format, a suggestion to postpone, and more emotional abuse from my adviser… and have lived to tell about it.
Oh yeah. My adviser said congratulations, and that this is what success felt like. That I somehow managed to push the thing over the finish line, before it killed me. Nice.
I’m sure there will be more posts coming about this whole process, but I just wanted to document it here initially while it was still fresh. I want to post about the “real” acknowledgments I wanted to write, as well as how my adviser’s perspectives are so skewed. But for now, I’m just happy it’s in, and that I can get a little sleep!