Thesis Time

You know that word synchronicity?  …The one that means a “coincidence of events that seem to be meaningfully related.”  Well, I’ve been experiencing that today.  A little.

One of the bloggers I follow wrote a post about procrastination recently.  I read it at the end of just another long day of not getting enough done on my thesis, and worrying about it.  And of course, having begun to stress out about my own procrastination, I had to revisit Allie Brosh’s wonderful post on Hyperbole and a Half, “This is Why I’ll Never be an Adult.”  Both of those posts were me all over.

Actually, I think Brosh also once described herself as being laterally productive, and that’s me too.  I get things done, but they aren’t always the things I should be getting done.  Like, I’ve been pretty great in recent months about reading up on pregnancy and the care of really young children.  I’ve done some research on transgender stuff, too.  And health insurance.  And probably some other things as well.  And since starting this blog I’ve been happily typing away at that, too.

Oh, and I’ve made some pretty awesome lunches for myself and J recently.

And I walk the dog daily.

But the thesis… I don’t know.  Some?  I have been working on it some.

This blog is meant to be anonymous, but all the same I hesitate to share too much about my grad school experience with the internet world as a whole.  I always imagine some hypothetical potential future employer reading over my shoulder, raising an eyebrow and saying, “Now what do you think you could have done better there?”

I could have done a lot of things better.  With many things, I did what I could.

The bare bones story of my grad school experience is, I agreed to do a masters degree with this professor.  He had an assistanceship available, and needed somebody to contribute to an ongoing study.  I was stuck in a small town while my S.O. completed his master’s degree, and the project sounded interesting.  So did the degree program.  The prof seemed enthusiastic.  I signed up.

Over the course of the following year I began to have my doubts about the project.  It had some major flaws, and even though I kept telling myself that it would all look better once I took a few more classes, or spent enough time with my field work, it didn’t.  It still doesn’t.  Relations with my advisor were also difficult.  He was a decent person and did a lot for me, but I never felt like I could please him.  By the end of our first year together I knew that if this had been a “normal” job, I would be preparing my resignation.  But this wasn’t a normal job.  It was an indefinite contract in which I agreed to complete a project.  My advisor, in return, agreed to pay for my classes and provide me with a living stipend.  He had invested in me, and I didn’t feel like I could back out.

I continued with my classes and did well in them.  I continued with my field work and finished on time.  I was proud of myself for that, because my project was larger than most other masters’ projects in my department.  The field work was intense.  I made mistakes and there were times when I wasn’t sure I would be able to complete it, but in the end, I did.  I’ll even stick my neck out a little and say that I rocked it.  No employer could ask a field tech for more, given my level of experience and the number of tasks I had to complete.

My advisor and I had mutually agreed on a date at which my funding would end, one semester after my coursework was finished.  He actually might have been willing to support me for longer, but my husband and I had plans to move, and I wanted to begin regaining my independence.

I came to Idaho with the hope that I would graduate by the end of 2013, my third year as a graduate student.  The year has been a busy one.  J and I have done some traveling, and we’ve held several short-term jobs.  During this time I have acknowledged to myself just how unhappy I was in my master’s program, and although I feel compelled to see it through, I do not have any enthusiasm for my project.  I’m ready to move on with my life.

I have been working on the thesis.  The literature review was carved out in rough during my first year as a grad student, and I am not all that intimidated by words on a page.  But I’m still working through my statistics, and that, to me, is intimidating enough.  I have some good resources at my disposal, but finishing the stats has felt like swimming through jello.  When I get stuck on something, I have to fight to stay on track, to stay interested.

A lot of days the only way I can force myself to keep working is to put an audiobook on in the background.  It drowns out the stress a little, but it’s also a distraction.  I began listening to audiobooks in earnest when I was still completing my field work.  Audiobooks were a release into a different world, one in which other people thought and did different things from the ones I had to think and do.  Audiobooks were unobtrusive in the field, and kept me from descending into tears, and rage, and a lot of unproductive mental angst.  They helped calm the chest pains I felt sometimes when I thought about my program.  And they reminded me that even though I couldn’t escape my situation, I could choose not to become bitter.

This blog has been a similar kind of release and distraction for me, but the reality is, it’s mostly a distraction.  In contrast to my audiobooks, I can’t work on statistics while writing a blog entry.  Or while reading other blogs.  I updated my resume again this week, and felt a little sick when I deleted the phrase next to my grad school program:  “Projected graduation date — December 2013.”  I am not graduating this year.

I value the process of writing.  I don’t think I would have made it through high school without this as an outlet, and I want my future self to be able to look back at these entries and see how far she has come.  So I’m not quitting this blog.  But I think it’s time for a short vacation, just enough of one to see if I can kick my thesis-writing butt back into gear.

I’ll be back again sometime after Christmas, to write about my next prenatal visit and evaluate my forward movement on the thesis.  In the meantime, happy holidays to all.  And if your holidays aren’t happy, I wish you the ability to find some small thing —  a  book, a friendly dog, a tv show, a walk in the snow — to make everything seem just a little bit better.

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One Response to Thesis Time

  1. keelyellenmarie says:

    Good luck on the thesis! If you go back to the beginning of my blog, I did a fair bit of whining about my master’s thesis myself. Hell, the first post that got me readers (How to keep moving forward) was written while I was procrastinating on my thesis! So I totally feel you there. It’s especially hard to finish such an epic project when honestly, you don’t care that much about it anymore? It’s like, that part of your life is over and you are ready to move on, but you still have this stupid project hanging over your head. It’s rough.

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