May 8, 2018
Today marks days 31 that I have been Dr. Hammershaimb. One month ago I defended, one month from today I will be partying the night away at a pre-convocation fest. One month and one day from today, I will be walking the stage and will acquire the wardrobe and hat which are the final step in making it officially, officially, official.
In response to a panicked email the received the day before my formal defense, my supervisor replied that he was confident all would be fine, I’d pass, and all my wildest dreams would come true. I may or may not have read that email about a hundred times over the course of the next twenty four hours. Now that it is all over I can say with confidence that all was fine and I did pass. I think I would even go so far as to say that, as finishing my doctorate was pretty much the wildest dream I’ve had yet, my wildest dreams did in fact come true.
And so begins life in the post-doctorate phase.
This past weekend I went on a silent retreat. The idea was that it would be good to get away for a weekend, be intentionally quiet, be intentionally open, and begin to heal some of the necessary trauma that was the final months of this process. I realized many things over the course of the forty-ish hours of silence. The first was pretty obvious: silence sounds like a great idea but thinking about being silent and actually quieting your mind to rest into the silence are two very different things. The silence also allowed a low level sub-narrative that’s been playing within me since passing my final defense come to the surface. The specifics shift a bit but overall assume some version of the following: I am a newly minted doctor. In the market of academia if I do not get myself out there right now, begin immediately working on a new project, begin publicizing my dissertation research as widely as possible, begin making people like me, I will be old news. Once I am old news I will miss my chance and it will not come back around. Ever. Opportunities are scarce. This narrative says that rather than getting all silently zen and taking a weekend, I should be working, and producing….pushing myself and pushing ahead.
I know for me this is more a recipe for personal burnout than a sustainable life but…once more knowing it in theory and actually living it out are two very different things. Because I have no aspirations to move out of the position I’ve held for the past seven years, I am at yet another liminal space, making the traverse between what has been and whatever comes next. Nothing is set in stone just yet as to what this season might look like…just who Dr. Hammershaimb might be. This means I have the agency to shape this time however I desire (well, within reason). I know for many people who are finishing their degrees this freedom isn’t available because they must make something new work and they must push as hard as they can because they have no other options. Considering the leverage of my own situation is super exciting. Considering my own personal responsibility in light of what I know is great privilege is also a little bit terrifying.
Ironically, life in the post-doctorate phase feels a lot like life in the early doctorate stages, before you’ve actually settled into your research direction. After the requisite “Congrats Dr. Hammershaimb! I’m so happy for you!!” the inevitable next question is “Now what?” It feels a bit anticlimactic, but at the moment my only honest answer is I’m enjoying having evenings free. Also, I’ve been tentatively trying out this thing I’ve heard so much about called a “weekend” and I think I might like it. A lot. I want to get back to personal creative projects and reading dystopian novels without feeling guilty. I’ve begun dreaming too of getting back to some of the research ideas I encountered over the course of my own research but put on hold. The metaphorical knowledge fields are open once more and I am ready to explore the abundance.
April 7, 2018
Presentation Result: Success
And just like that…the presentation is complete. I survived my twenty minutes of speaking. With the exception of my supervisor (who once again asked a somewhat left field question about an aspect of my study I hadn’t thought about for almost a year now) the committee asked questions that were mostly more thought-provoking than terrifying. They challenged word choices and some general semantics but they overall praised what I’d done, how it came together, and what was created in the end. I have minor revisions but the supervisor tweeted to the world I am now Dr. Hammershaimb and as he is mostly right most of the time, for all intents and purposes, I am finished.
Last night was about drinking all the champagne and soaking up the many many many congrats messages that came from all around the world. (Ironically, I slept way better the night before the defense than the night after because last night I kept reminding myself it was all finished, and then getting way too excited to fall back asleep.) Today it is making plans with friends for celebratory drinks and dinners and (finally) beginning the travel plans for convocation.
Though I am basically finished from a technical standpoint, things have moved so quickly that I have a feeling this will take a bit longer to process on an emotional level. There’s been lots of question on the theme of, “How does it feel to be done, Dr. Hammershaimb?” Very honestly…it feels wonderful and all the positive adjectives but I also feel more than a little disoriented and incredibly tired. I just checked the blog and realized last month today I didn’t have an external and was still in the middle of the endless waiting. Now it is all complete. Yep, I’d say given the pace of this past month not to mention this past year…my feelings of disorientation and tiredness might be normal.
For now I think the official countdown to convocation postings will slow down as I’m hopeful the week ahead will be a beautifully boring one, but to complete things I am going to take further inspiration from Dr. Cronin (who I’ve viewed as kind of my big sister on this doctoral process and who, paradoxically ended up having her own viva just a couple weeks before me!) and conclude this season with the Dedication and Acknowledgements from my dissertation. Disclaimer: My final dissertation was just about 112 pages total. I took this to mean I could go extra long on the acknowledgements and no one would notice…clearly, flawless logic and further proof of my new doctoral status! : )
April 6, 2018
Convocation Countdown: 26 days
Presentation Countdown: 1 days
One. Day. More.
I wish I had some great, clever reflection to reveal today…some deep learning and wise words for what it means to be living, literally, on the brink of something so large. I have nothing. I am mostly numb and at this moment, I am totally okay with that.
My goal tomorrow is to keep breathing and stay alive. It is also to listen way way way more to the voices of everyone who is calling out the truth that I have this, I am prepared, and I am worthy. My goal is also to listen way way way less to the voice that still says I am an imposter…I won’t know the right answers thus I should remain silent.
So tomorrow, no matter how hard it is, I will take deep breadths and speak slowly. Tomorrow, I will trust my supervisor and I will trust the process. Finally, (and admittedly hardest…) tomorrow, I will trust myself.
Here’s to doing hard things.
Here’s to believing we are enough…just as we are.
April 5, 2018
Convocation Countdown: 27 days
Presentation Countdown: 2 days
Tonight I passed the “present to the cohort” milestone. Though I legit want to impress my formal committee because they are the ones who will officially pass me on this journey, in many ways presenting to the cohort felt slightly more intimidating for me. This wasn’t because the cohort is intimidating, because they’re family now for me but because, like family, I both totally know I’m loved for just who I am in all my quirkiness and with all my issues yet still always want to do everything I can to make them proud because they do know (and put up with) my aforementioned quirkiness and issues.
Tonight along with some a couple hard questions and some good diversionary strategy for answering hard questions…I did indeed get their blessing. They told me they are impressed and know that I will make it through…they told me they will all send positive vibes and they told me they are so, so proud of me.
Whatever happens two days from now tonight I am reminded once more how profoundly thankful I am for all the people who have come into my life as a result of this process. The cohort is for sure the center but the lines of connection radiate out in so many beautifully unexpected patterns that Lisa of five years ago could never comprehend or hope might exist. I kind of wish that instead of a defense, I could spend two hours talking about everyone I’ve met during this process…bring them in via webcam, name them, and thank them for how they’ve impacted and changed me for the better. My world is so much larger for this process and though it sounds super cheesey…my heart too has grown exponentially as I’ve learned to be brave and open myself a bit more to others. I know this sort of defense would be totally self centered and probably a total snooze fest to attend for others (and clearly…lacking in APA!) but still…I think some alt version of it may need to happen in the next little bit.
Also, I think I may be entering into the tearful-in-a-good-way phase of things. Though I still default to disliking feeling all feelings…I’ve learned enough in this process to welcome this new phase with more or less open arms and also lots of Kleenex.
Two. More. Days.
April 4, 2018
Convocation Countdown: 28 days
Presentation Countdown: 3 days
Today begins the final, final read through the dissertation to prepare for the defense. You know that thing where it is difficult to hear yourself recorded because you end up thinking so much about how you sound that you forget to listen to what you are actually saying? Reading my dissertation is basically that…except with words. I have the urge to remove sentences, reorder paragraphs and generally tidy up rather than do the one ting I need to do which is sit in it and stay put.
So yeah…it is slow going to say the least. Though I know I will power through, it definitely may be more an exercise in grit as opposed to happy nostalgia. This is making me even more glad I’m at 112 pages total. Double spaced.
Speaking of grit…back to it.
April 3, 2018
Convocation Countdown: 29 days
Presentation Countdown: 4 days
As I’m getting ready to finish out the day, I feel ready to do this. I don’t know if this is a developmental thing or a practice thing or me finally feeling all the positive support that has been directed my way come together but….I think I actually might survive Friday. Even more, while it won’t be “fun” in sense that drinking fancy cocktails on a rooftop is fun or shopping for cute new shoes is fun, I think there may be a chance that some parts of this process might have the slightest hint of fun to them.
I have not felt this before and it may wear off and become replaced by the much more familiar ones of low grade panic and inadequacy but for the moment I am savoring this feeling of grounded whole…this feeling that I will me okay in the end and just maybe my tribe, the network, is right in their positive affirmations. If you have believed in me…thank you. And please keep at it! I think it just might be beginning to work…forgive my slowness.
March 31, 2018
Convocation Countdown: 33 days
Presentation Countdown: 7 days
Seven. Days. (and if we want to get obsessive….less than seven 24 hour time slots because it is now nighttime on Friday and the defense is late afternoon. ahhhhhhhhh.)
I have no large or exciting news to report other than today I was annoyingly aware of the time and trying to forecast what I “might” be doing between the hours of 4 and 6 next week…what part I would be on, if I would still be alive, etc. I am hopeful the answer to the latter will be an emphatic yes while the former really is anyone’s guess. All I really know is next week at this time something will have happened. I am trying to be immensely patient between now and then.
In order to turn my mind toward more productive things, I am also slowly working through a hot tip on “Questions typically asked in a Viva” I got from Helen DeWaard who in turn learned about it from Dr. Catherine Cronin.
When I asked the supervisor what I should be doing to prepare, he said “Don’t over think it. You’re the expert and be confident.” While I believe him and all, I also know his ratio of being correct only actualizes about 2/3 of the time so, because it has already been well established that I am a control freak…I’m doing a bit of side work. And in all honesty, the questions are open ended enough that they’re just helping to get me limbered up after being away from my research for almost four months. It’s been a fun process so far and I’m looking to digging in pretty hard over the holiday weekend. I am also toying with the idea of giving my presentation every two hours over the course of the weekend. We shall see at what point Ruby begins wearing earplugs!
March 29, 2018
Convocation Countdown: 35 days
Presentation Countdown: 9 days
In completely unrelated news…I am now freshly tattooed. Interlocked rectangles for balanced geometry and, somewhat, in keeping with my overall slide design. I am telling myself girls with fresh balanced geometry tattoos are presentation wizards. I think I just might believe it. And yep, I’m totally wearing pajama pants in this pic and did put them on shortly after arriving home. It has been my experience that healing a tattoo is legit self care on a whole new level and…that level is best executed in flannel.
And….because clearly this whole “girls with fresh balanced geometry tattoos are presentation wizards” is a research proposition that needs testing and not just blind speculation, below is the most recent run through with all the slides (even though admittedly that References one doesn’t get any play…just trust me, it is there as the stoic 44.)
March 28, 2018
Convocation Countdown: 36 days
Presentation Countdown: 10 days
Deeply noteworthy update: the presentation is now 44 pages total because on the slide previously the third from the final (i.e. the stairs leading to ocean for everyone who is playing along from home) I said what felt like about 500 words but on all the other slides I say about 10 words total. So, I added in another slide to just break it up and also inserted a little more of what I am hoping is clever use of metaphor and word smithing which will make my external smile and like me and think I’m cool since at the end of the day…this is kind of what matters, eh?
And on a much more rational note, I also added in a reference slide so I am officially #academicadulting with all the things. (Or, all the things I think I need which could very well be missing something still….)
Tomorrow we enter the realm of single digits in the presentation countdown numbers. Woah. My mom reminded me that for 3/4 of my committee I will be presenting late on a Friday afternoon and for 1/4 of my committee I will be presenting super early on a Saturday morning. She also helpfully added that the times where people are most mentally checked out and basically could care less about anything that requires deep and focused brain waves are late on Friday afternoons and also super early on Saturday mornings thus, I could probably change the middle of my presentation to gibberish and no one would notice. Moms are basically the best thing ever.
No recordings tonight but…here are updated slides and updated script for posterity.
March 27, 2018
Convocation Countdown: 37 days
Presentation Countdown: 11 days
I’m pretty sure I am in the “middle” of this whole preparation endeavor. It is not quite close enough that I am feeling feverish yet I’ve lived in the knowledge of April 6th for a week so I’m mostly used to it and saying it no longer catches in my throat.
This journey has taught me that the fairly tranquil middle, where everything feels so slow, seems like it will last forever but actually goes by in a flash. Because of this, I am trying to savor the right now and the right here. It mostly isn’t working because I’m equal parts totally impatient and totally terrified to get this done. But sometimes it does work. Tonight is one of those times.
It’s raining here for the first “official” time this spring. It’s good to hear and it’s good to imagine things that have been long underground beginning to drink and beginning to wake up…beginning to grow. I don’t think any of the great metaphors tonight stirs align with my research which already feels like it is entering the “going to seed” phase of things but it is good to still listen to the rain. In the middle, which implies an ending is on the horizon, it is good to remember things made new.
And on a totally unpoetic front…17:50. Mostly off script. Once again #win.