March 16, 2018
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 )
March 15, 2018
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? : )
March 12, 2018
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.
March 9, 2018
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.
March 7, 2018
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.
March 6, 2018
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.
March 5, 2018
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.
March 2, 2018
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.
March 1, 2018
Convocation Countdown: 61 days
According to the Lisa Timeline, March 1 was going to be a fortuitous date, roughly one month until my final oral dissertation defense. In keeping with what I did last year in my daily posts tracking #countdowntocandidacy I had stealth plans to do the same thing with a #countdowntoconvocation blog run.
As I’ve already established the Lisa Timeline is proving more fantasy than reality as there’s now not even a human to fill a date on the calendar. My first thinking in this was to cancel the countdown, wallow in my own disappointment, and basically become bitter and cynical about establishments in general and academia in particular. When things legit don’t go your way, it’s easy to let disappointment spiral into anger and then increasingly into destructive hate that has no room for empathy. I am far from being in a destructive place but I’ve also been around enough to know that ignoring or stuffing negative feelings rarely leads to a positive life outcome for anyone involved.
In an act of what I’m calling self care and resistance, I’m firing up the #countdowntoconvocation blog run and seeing what happens. In my wildest dreams the perfect external will stumble across this blog, contact the Faculty of Graduate studies immediately and say he’s ready to read my dissertation and available in two weeks for the formal defense. He will also be tall, handsome, single, financially stable, and have an affinity for small dogs, fancy cocktails, and large bodies of water. If that doesn’t happen…I’m hopeful this exercise will help me trend more toward a positive perspective and give me some experiential practice into the continuing-to-evolve theory that the actual research and fancy words part of doctoral studies are really just the tip of the iceberg to the personal transformative learning that could occur along the journey if you’re open. I used to think this was such a romantic idea…at the moment I deeply dislike this theory because it feels so true.
And now…ever onwards.
March 1, 2018
And just like that…history has once again repeated itself. One year ago this month I learned the unfortunate truth that the person I thought could be my external committee member for my doctoral candidacy presentation was–because of circumstances out of my control–ineligible thus, my hopes of a March candidacy were gone. A March candidacy was basically what the previous nine months of my life were tracking toward so this twist was a bitter disappointment. Yesterday, I learned that the candidate I’d submitted many days ago (in order to avoid at all costs what had happened before) for an external examiner for my final defense was rejected due to her lack of experience and lack of publication record. Someday I know the irony of all of this will be humorous but not quite now. Not quite yet.
Once again, I’ve spent the past many months tracking toward an early spring final defense so I am well positioned to graduate June 2018. Once again, the perfect storm of events out of my control has hijacked my timeline. Once again I’m being told to wait, to consent to a very murky system that has now let me down repeatedly. Once again, I’m amazed at how visceral disappointment really is…the intense physical ache and pressure as I try to process it all. I know in the larger scheme something will work out, I will finish eventually, the pressure will dissipate. Right now it is the small daily of trying to stay positive and channel the energy of my own anger in a proactive as opposed to destructive pathway. Right now it’s working about half the time.
So now back to the theme which feels like its defined this journey even more than the actual research I’ve done or the theory I’ve created–waiting on things out of my control, opening my fists that want more than anything to grab and fight, and trusting that this indeed is a story so much larger than what I see from my own vantage point.