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! : )
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.