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.
March 25, 2018
Convocation Countdown: 39 days
Presentation Countdown: 13 days
Today the plan was to begin working on answers to anticipated questions. The first question on the list to tackle was “Why are you choosing ‘collaboration’ as opposed to ‘cooperation’? Be prepared to discuss collaboration and justify your choice.”
Turns out, it’s a super hairy topic and one that I didn’t even know as a “thing” until I began researching it and now I kind of wish I could turn back time to a simpler time when I didn’t know it was a “thing.” I think I am going to hold strong in the idea that transposing perspectives ultimately represents a traverse of positionality, thus educators don’t so much look to instill in learners this idea that through a division of labor they can complete a task rather, educators look to instill in learners this idea that they can create something new through mutual engagement and coordinated efforts. Granted this whole ability for learners to collaborate might come from educators who have cooperated but…we might keep that on the down low.
After tackling my first question I decided it would be good to learn a bit about my external so I spent the rest of the day reading her dissertation (coincidentally she finished it when I was finishing up grade 6….clearly the synchronicity of me finishing grade school and her finishing her doctorate means we are MFEO.) I loved it all and now kind of want to become an instructional designer when I grow up. It is also super interesting because she wrote it in 1994 when educational technology and this whole technology mediated classroom concept really was in its dreamy salad years of unlimited potential. Its easy to forget how fast things have changed. In all honesty, it is totally plausible I’ll be someone’s external examiner in 2042 and they will read my dissertation and it will have the same glow of nostalgia to it. Ahhh….time.
Anyways, I didn’t get as far as I’d hope in the list of potential questions but I feel like I might know my external a bit more and from what I am imagining…I’m totally a fan. I hope she thinks I’m cool too.
Also, I managed to be almost totally off script and talk the presentation for almost 20 minutes so I’m also calling that a win. You can see the recording below.
March 24, 2018
Convocation Countdown: 40 days
Presentation Countdown: 14 days
Yes…you totally read that correctly. 14 days (and technically even a bit less as it is now evening on Friday, March 23 here and my defense will be late afternoon so less than fourteen 24 hour periods from now it will all. be. over.)
On the preparation front, I’ve had an exceptionally commuter-ish week doing long driving stretches so I’ve been listening to my presentation a bunch in the car. It is oddly surreal to listen over and over to yourself give a presentation. I am at the point where I can almost lip synch. I am not quite at the point where I don’t wince a little at how my voice sounds recorded but…I’m learning to live with it. Tomorrow I will stop traveling so much and begin talking it again in earnest. Maybe I will also try to develop an accent that says, “smart , cosmopolitan, and deeply authoritative with a hint of whimsy.”
You know that point where you read the same word or say the same word over and over again and it loses all meaning to you? I’m totally there with my dissertation. What has been so fabulous (and so in keeping with all I’ve been learning about the meta narrative of community that has so infused this journey) is that I received presentation input and question potential from all corners of the world. Seriously. You all are amazing and I am still astounded by the support.
*Insert community to save the day.
That said, I will be real….reading question potential has legitimately made me put into practice once more all the anxiety countering deep yogic breathing techniques I’ve learned this year because if someone were to ask me these questions right now about my dissertation…I don’t know that I would have good academic answers. However, it is also tremendously empowering because I do have time to prepare. 13 days is more than enough time.
So if you have sent me stuff…Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And if you still want to send me stuff…I am ready to receive it with open arms because as it is all speculative at this point anyways, more is more!
Speaking of more…as this process has unfolded I have added about a page more to my acknowledgements. I am 100% okay with this.
March 22, 2018
Convocation Countdown: 42 days
Rehearsal Update: Partial memorization; Full run throughs beginning
Today I created the first recordings of practice-palooza. Two weeks from today I practice with the cohort. Two weeks and two days I give it for real, for real to the committee. Things are beginning to feel very real. I am totally thrilled (and only a little bit terrified.) I am calling this progress.
Curious how it is all coming together? You’re in luck! Below is the full 18 minutes and 29 seconds!
p.s. Please forgive the awkward giggles, excessive paper shuffling and lack of references. I can’t promise I will be able to totally get rid of the former two elements but I will add the latter slide. Eventually. : )
p.p.s. What questions should I be prepared to answer?
March 20, 2018
Convocation Countdown: 44 days
Defense Date: Confirmed. April 6, 3 p.m. Mountain Time Zone
…and just like that, I now have a confirmed defense date and time.
This afternoon I was physically in a meeting about student retention and tracking metrics (mentally maybe a bit checked out because #Monday) when the email came through…April 6. 3 p.m. MT. Mark your calendar. It’s official.
I’ve imagined this moment so many times over the last three months. Now that it has come, I can confirm it is even better than I could imagine. It’s a bit total relief like when you come up from being under water too long mixed with giddy excitement of a first date. It’s the good ache of being at the top of a mountain after you’ve spent way too long climbing uphill. It’s the buzz of getting lost in time as you’re making something…simultaneously totally unselfconscious and totally grounded, body and mind in harmony.
It is all the more sweet because this season has left me so broken…the many cracks have opened up so much more space for the light and for the joy to flow in. I realize now what a wonder and what a gift this actually is.
Tomorrow begins the for real, for real practicing and question predicting. Tomorrow begins re-reading the dissertation to remember what exactly past Lisa did and all the details that so quickly evaporated. Tomorrow begins the girl power warrior music on repeat and the positive self affirmations. Tonight it is resting. Tonight…it is savoring how it feels to be thankful in every part of my being. Tonight is peace.
March 18, 2018
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.
March 17, 2018
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! : )