Skip to content

countdown to convocation: day 17

March 18, 2018

lisa hammershaimb

March 17
Convocation Countdown: 46 days
Presentation Update: Slides + Narration V3 complete and now in full rehearsal

Yesterday I told another friend the news that my dissertation defense will occur sometime during the first week of April. My friend was ecstatic. I laughed because it’s still absurd to think that it is so close…that I am almost there. Then my friend asked how I was holding up as legit the first week of April is so close.

I said I am pretty sure I have major issues because in my head I know that I am ready and that I have a solid dissertation and yet I am so skittish that something catastrophic will happen and I won’t make the April 30 convocation deadline. I said so much has happened the last couple weeks and I can’t quite let go of the “what-ifs” and allow myself to be present fully right here and right now. I am incredibly terrified because so much is outside of my control.

My friend responded quickly that my feelings are understandable and should be acknowledged. But what is also completely true is that I have lots of great people around me holding and supporting me so no matter what happens…I will be okay.

Though I was glad for the empathy, I was a little taken aback because I didn’t hear any ego bolstering motivational phrases like, “You’re strong!! You’re a fighter and you’re going to do it!! You’ve got this!” Indeed, there was a distinct lack of attention paid to anything exclusively Lisa-centric and instead a very purposeful emphasis on reminding me I am not alone…I am being held and supported by a positive network and in this fact, I will okay.

My default definition of strength is being something that makes me impervious…something that allows me to dominate the less desirable emotional bits of being human. I tend to measure strength by my own ability to maintain my independence, to accomplish my own goals. Being okay means having personal fortitude to withstand whatever comes at me. In my own definition of strength, words like “held and supported” are code for “weakness.”

My default definition of strength is great if I am living in a post-apocalyptic dystopian society or maybe stranded on a desert island. To give you some insight into my actual life…last week I purchased a pair of premium denim jeans that came heavily distressed in an artistic manner. This afternoon I wore them while drinking mimosas and eating gluten free, organic pastries made by flannel clad hipsters. It is safe to say I am far removed from either a dystopian or desert island life.

I’m coming to think my default definition of strength may need some re-working.

Looking back it is easy to see that from the beginning the meta narrative of this doctoral journey has been one of the power of community…the wonder of being held and supported and of realizing you are not alone. This showed up first with the cohort and the crazy academic boot camp that was program orientation. It continued through coursework…the routine of weekly meetings and shared struggles to figure out just who we were becoming in the liminal space of doctoral studies. When coursework was complete, a previously peripheral supervisor joined the mix as cheerleader, advocate, and voice of reason. Along with this formalized academic squad existed all the friends and family who care enough to listen and ask questions–who care enough about you to get excited about your tiny research area and learn words with way too many syllables because they make you so happy.

Just over a month ago I was in Florida, living steps from the ocean yet feeling deeply impatient waiting on structural processes to work themselves out. I told the ocean life was unfair because I had an amazing plan but no one was acting on my time table. I told the ocean I was basically over almost all humans. The ocean reminded me that strength comes in dependence…in mutual support and honor. The ocean advised me that maybe a deep breadth as opposed to a clenched fist was a better option. It is easy to listen and consent to this wisdom when you’re standing at the edge of a continent and feeling exceptionally small. I’ll confess the last couple weeks, I may have “conveniently forgotten” this wisdom.

Looking back it is easy to see that from the beginning the meta narrative of this doctoral journey has been one of the power of community…the power of finding my own strength through being held and supported by a larger positive network. I could not have done this journey alone and that is 100% as it should be.

It continues to surprise me that I am such a slow learner.

Two weeks from today I will be on the brink of all. the. things. Three weeks from today all the things will (hopefully) be over. Once again I have a choice ahead of me: will I give myself to trying to be strong and trying to personally manage all the what-ifs of a future that legit has no guarantees? Will I give myself to this moment trusting that I will be held and supported no matter what arrives? The answer is most likely yes to both options but…may it be slightly more the latter and slightly less the former. May I trust that my connection to this larger community rather than my own independent stamina ultimately be what will allow me to be okay.





countdown to convocation: day 16

March 17, 2018

lisa hammershaimb

March 16
Convocation Countdown: 47 days
External Update: One external, confirmed, celebrating our one week anniversary.
Presentation Update: Slides + Narration V3 complete

I have a feeling in the future I won’t remember a lot of the specifics about this past month and these upcoming weeks leading up to the defense. (In all honesty, I kind of hope I don’t remember all that much about the specifics because they’ve tended a bit more toward the painful as opposed to the warm and fuzzy.) However one thing I think will stick with me is the weird way time has warped and shifted and progressed at a pace altogether unlike neat linearity one comes to expect from time itself.

Today marks one week since I learned an external did indeed say yes. One week in theory feels like a somewhat significant amount of time and yet it feels like I learned about my external maybe just yesterday…it feels like it can’t possibly be seven days later. Going back through my dissertation to create my presentation has the same sort of time warp quality to it only in the opposite direction. I conduced this research not even a year ago and did the bulk of the writing this past October, November, and December. It feels like I completed this maybe three years ago…it feels like it can’t possibly be just three months old.

Tomorrow I’m headed to see the movie, A Wrinkle in Time. While I know it is about things entirely different and somewhat dystopian, wrinkled time does feel like an apt description of this experience and learning to move with it and not be thrown off by its irregularities is yet another literacy that comes from this journey.

On a less philosophical note…fully updated the slides + script so now on V3. The latest iteration clocks in at just about 17:30 which is basically on par with my proposal presentation length. I just sent it off to the supervisor for his blessing. Once more, updates are visible here: DisertDefen_Presentation_script_V3

I hope my external likes orange…maybe I can ask the Faculty of Graduate Studies to ask about her favorite color. I am sure that’s a common request, and they’re probably for real now pining for any sort of communication from me since its been a whole week! : )

countdown to convocation: day 15

March 16, 2018

lisa hammershaimb

March 15
Convocation Countdown: 48 days
External Update: One external, (still) confirmed. (Related: I’m almost to the point where I fully believe she won’t dump me and we’re in it for the next month.)

Today news came from the Faculty of Grad studies that the first week of April seems to be most conducive for all my committee members thus scheduling for a specific date/time within that range will now begin. If you’re keeping score, the first week of April is basically like just over two weeks away. #WOAH

Doctoral life once again astounds me with its ability to go from glacial time to super galactic time, especially when you least expect it. Last week at this time no one had even agreed to read my dissertation. Just wow. Also, I’m still so thankful for an external who said yes.

So it is now time to enter into the for real, for real practice and memorization and question-anticipating phase of preparation. If all goes well pretty sure the next two-ish weeks will see me once more, as happened with my proposal, begin dreaming these ideas because they are so much the theme of my waking life. If all goes well one month from today all the variegated bits of life as a doctoral candidate will begin softening to a hazy memory.

Here’s to the journey!

(and of course…here’s updated slides + script. Thank you community! It does indeed take a village. DisertDefen_Presentation_script )

countdown to convocation: day 14

March 15, 2018

lisa hammershaimb

March 14
Convocation Countdown: 49 days
External Update: One external, (still) confirmed.

Totally missed yesterdays check-in because its been a mad creative fest of slides and scripts and trying to distill all. the. words. of the dissertation into under 20 minutes of brilliance. I think I’m also still hungover on all the feelings from the past couple weeks. The good news is I think I’m mostly there to the presentation (and nowhere near there for being processed through the feelings). The even better news is all the world can see and read it by clicking here: DisertDefen_Presentation_script

And if anyone who has made it this far wants to be an overachiever, you can give me feedback. Or, bonus points you can read a bit of it out loud and then pass along the recording because clearly the world needs the Lisa Dissertation Remix and at some point soon I should have some free time on my hands to actually make cool stuff and learn new things.

Two things to note:
I don’t have a reference slide yet. I know this is terrible because I have references listed in the script and one image that isn’t my own. I will fix this another day.

Also, the first slide has no date because I have yet to have an “official” date set for things. I am being remarkably zen in this not knowing. I have a feeling the people in charge of setting a date (who happen to be the same people who were in charge of finding an external) are beginning to place bets on how long I can go before I begin checking in obsessively and asking for updates. In all honesty, I’ve got enough to do on my end so I don’t think I’ll be emailing anytime soon but…I might just send a quick and chatty update about life because clearly after two weeks of about four emails per day…they’re probably missing me, eh? : )


countdown to convocation: day 12

March 12, 2018

lisa hammershaimb

March 12
Convocation Countdown: 51 days
External Update: One external, confirmed.

…and just like that, I once again have an external.

Early Friday afternoon I began brainstorming how I was going to deal with the ambiguity moving into the new week. I knew I had done all I could do to move things forward on the external front and the day was feeling eerily like the last two Fridays had been…meaning the morning would begin with an assurance that “we are sure to hear something today” and then silence. So the new plan was I would spend the weekend designing my presentation, get it to a tentative good spot, and then move on. The plan was get everything to a place where, cognitively, I felt something almost like closure.

Then at 4:20 p.m. the fortuitous message came to my inbox. (Yes, this news was indeed the ultimate 420.) Dr. Katy Campbell had confirmed that she was up for it. I may or may not have read the email about fifty times over the next five minutes just to ensure it actually came through…just to ensure it was real.

When I had played out how it would feel to be found by an external, I imagined it would be an adrenaline rush of happy feels and the only logical next step would be to drink all the champagne and generally engage in raucous revelry. In reality, it was much more like being able to finally take deep breadths after you’ve had bronchitis. It was the feeling of setting down a really heavy piece of furniture that you’ve been carrying up a steep flight of stairs. I was deeply happy but I was also more than a little exhausted by the past weeks.

This past weekend I began designing my presentation, though in a slightly different mindset than I anticipated early Friday morning. I also began processing intentionally all that has happened the past couple weeks. It would be easy to shut and lock the door to all the hard stuff. While I know I need to let the painful parts go so I can heal, I don’t want to inadvertently also let go of the things I’ve learned through this experience. Once more…a doctorate is indeed a process about all the things you would never anticipate when you’re an eager applicant.

And so…back to work; hopefully a bit stronger and a bit wiser, and for sure a whole lot more filled with gratitude.

countdown to convocation: day 8

March 9, 2018

lisa hammershaimb

March 8
Convocation Countdown: 55 days
External Update: 0/2 on the first contacts; Currently (still, still not so patiently) waiting on two more

So, I purposefully waited to check in today because I was totally ready for today to be “the day.”

For real, for real.

The day began in such a fortuitous manner. Ruby slept the night for the first time in a week. Yoga was all about “finesse over force” and embracing smooth flow over static grasping. The sun finally came out and one could almost believe spring is coming.

But apparently the external didn’t get the memo that today was the big day to pop out of the cake and complete the happy surprise. Maybe they mixed up time zones or got stage fright. Both happen to me on a very regular basis so…I get it.

And so it’s once again no news on the external front and one day closer to deadlines and limitations and endings I’m realizing more and more I just. might. have. to. acknowledge. (kicking and screaming, of course).

I wish someone would tell me what I could do to help this process along–what ignorant behavior on my end caused this whole mishap and how I could change it…how I could atone for it. I still don’t see how anything in my power could change where I currently find myself. Maybe I am too ignorant and self absorbed to see where I have dropped the ball or maybe…this is just how it is trying to navigate yourself through systemic issues.

My institution enthusiastically approved me conducting research in an area that hasn’t been researched to date. They applauded my innovation and commitment. Now on the other end, I cannot move forward until an “expert” in my area of research is identified who can act as my external and thus verify what I’ve done as doctoral quality, meaningful, etc. Oh, and this expert has to have experience supervising doctoral students and a well established publishing pedigree. Newsflash: the best experts in my area work part time in academia and part time in industry. Their pedigree is more often in pictures than academic papers. The experts in my area have, at most, MFAs. Welcome to the world of vocational education.

It’s so frustrating and even more it’s so hard to remove destructive anger from the driver seat. I legit love academia and yet I hate (and yes…I didn’t mean dislike, I mean hate) how policy for the greater good always dehumanizes the exception. I hate how scaling efficiency most often leads to squelching the uniquely beautiful and messy stories of individual learning. I have felt this way in theory for awhile…now I am experiencing the unique blessing and curse that is feeling these ideas in practice.

And so it is back to waiting. It is back to hoping that something happens soon. It is back to committing to show up with the very real knowledge that it may hurt again tomorrow just as badly as it hurt today but…maybe it will change. Maybe it can change. Maybe showing up can change me for the good and maybe that will be enough.

countdown to convocation: day 7

March 7, 2018

lisa hammershaimb

March 7.
Convocation Countdown: 56 days
External Update: 0/2 on the first contacts; Currently (still) waiting on two more

The good news is I haven’t been rejected. The bad news is the word “yet” still feels very present. Today marks one week since all this chaos officially began. I’m getting way better at being okay with the fact that after working so diligently the past year my success now hinges in large part on whether a total stranger who is only very tangentially interested in my research area checks their email and responds in a timely manner. I’m getting way better at not trying to look back retroactively and ask what I could have done to avoid this situation. I’m getting way better at being okay living within rather than being broken by the tension.

So yeah…once again no major news. And now back to working and hoping and doing my part to move what I can one step ahead for good.

countdown to convocation: day 6

March 6, 2018

lisa hammershaimb

March 6.
Convocation Countdown: 57 days
External Update: 0/2 on the first contacts; Currently waiting on two more

Not much to report today. Yesterday afternoon the (bad) news came that both potential externals who had been contacted last week had said no. In a flurry of paperwork, two more requests were going out. I know in the logical part of my brain that they said no most likely because of a timing conflict—are likely just too busy at what is nearing the end of term to take on another thing for a person they don’t know and a topic they’re only tangentially interested in. I know this in the logical part of my brain but the less logical part of my brain still takes over and it really hurts to be rejected. In truth, there was still apart of me that was holding out that one of them would have said yes.

Anyways…the nature of this whole thing is you hope and you work and then you wait because it is all out of your control. I am ready not to feel anything anymore because hope and pain are so tightly bound together. Yet, I still have this nagging feeling that if I check out in this process and let apathy win, I will miss something very important…I will stunt something good that is trying to grow and, for whatever perverse reason, needs this struggle to make it strong.

And so once again, back to staying awake to the process and the feelings…and so back to the beautiful, terrible blessing of being human.

countdown to convocation: day 5

March 5, 2018

lisa hammershaimb

March 5.
Convocation Countdown: 58 days
External Update: (Still) waiting to hear back from first two potentials

The goal for this weekend was to do my best to remember that, though it may well feel that way, my whole life isn’t exactly this dissertation. I was thinking this would most likely happen by doing some creative projects, watching mindless television, maybe cooking, etc. Instead, Ruby spent the weekend quite sick so instead of creative projects I was at the vet on an emergency appointment and spent most of the rest of the week trying to force feed her medication, trying to get her to drink water, and in the general haze that comes with spending two nights waking up every hour or so to take her outside.

Though admittedly it was nothing I’d planned and I hope to not repeat it anytime soon…the experience did serve as a great reminder that my whole life actually isn’t this dissertation. Also, the meds (finally) kicked in and Ruby is (thankfully) now on the mend. So overall we will call this weekend a win.

Between everything (and because as much as I talk a good life balance game I really still have lots of issues) I did draw up a first pass at my final presentation script. You can see it in PDF glory  here: DisertDefen_V1. It’s right around 18:45 which feels kind of just right in time but also makes me wonder what glaringly obvious thing I’m not saying in that extra 75 seconds I’m not using to make it to my 20 min deadline!

Anyways, here’s to a new week and being open to whatever it may hold.


countdown to convocation: day 2

March 2, 2018

lisa hammershaimb

March 2.
Convocation Countdown: 60 days
External Update: Waiting to hear back from first two potentials

Yesterday I received news that the first two (of the basically 15+) names I’d submitted as potential externals had been contacted. My liaison with the faculty of grad studies (who for the record deserves an sharp increase in pay because being the messenger always means you take the full brunt of all the messy reactions) said she is confident we will hear back today. Confident is a word that’s gone missing in my own vocabulary but I’m trying. I’ve been wrong about so many things in the recent past…I wouldn’t mind the trend to continue.

My supervisor told me “If we get even one less roadblock a day, we are winning” and of course included a smiley face emoji. I have since added this to a running list of his quaint motivational phrases.

One thing I am coming to re-learn in this unanticipated season of trauma is how many amazing people I have in my life supporting me and ready to show up. This is a blessing I too often forget when things are going good enough that I can convince myself I am self sufficient and maybe even omnipotent. When I got the news on Tuesday that the person who I’d spent the last couple weeks banking on being my external was rejected, I went into power network contacting mode telling everyone I could think of what had happened, if they knew anyone who might be a good fit, and generally saying, “Help!!”

The response was astounding. Within 24 hours I had many names of people around the world who might be a good fit and who just might be available. And along with names, I had words reminding me that I could get through this, I would survive, I wasn’t alone and please keep updating on what happens next. When everything hurts I almost can’t help but get myopic and turn inward to try and hold the pieces together. Reaching out and finding other humans doesn’t inherently change my situation but it does change my perspective. To remix what the sage supervisor says…perhaps this is winning for today. If you’re reading this and you’re one of those people…thank you so so so much. Pretty sure we can indeed do hard things, together.

%d bloggers like this: