Adventures in (Post) Gradland

Thoughts on life after the PhD

Post-Quals Limbo

The stress of qualifying exams is almost worth it for the  post-quals indulgence, the feeling that you can finally justify reading a book or watching a film that has absolutely nothing to do with your dissertation topic without feeling an ounce of guilt, that you can get that massage, eat that coronary-inducing comfort food, and just sleep all day for at least a day or two without any sense of obligation to be productive.  My written quals went by pretty quickly, as such things usually do.  I didn’t sleep well for two or three nights beforeheand, which I guess is to be expected, so I was physically exhausted by the time they were over, but adrenaline and black tea kept me pretty focused as I was writing.  I haven’t looked at my written responses yet for fear that they won’t make any sense to me, though at the time two out of three of them seemed all right.  Oral defense is Wednesday, which I suppose will be the moment of truth.

I spent the weekend after my Friday exam at a dear friend’s house while she and her husband were out of town.  I ate at Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles (more on that later), A&E (more on that later, maybe), slept for most of Saturday (in between watching a lot of really bad TV), had dim sum on Sunday, and got an amazing reflexology massage on Sunday evening ($20 for a whole hour, what will I do without San Gabriel while I’m in Japan?).  Strangely, I found myself still eager to work–the exam  questions were really interesting and made me want to think more about the direction of the project–though I guess that’s what the orals are for.  I haven’t actually worked since April 30, though, unless you count the 17 final papers I graded for Writing 140 and the orientation session I helped organize for all the undergrads that I’m chaperoning in Japan this summer.  And it’s been bliss.

Here in Texas with my family (a place where I automatically feel relaxed to the point of sleepiness and rarely get any real  work done), post-quals indulgence is slowly transforming into post-quals limbo.  What now?  Do I actually have to *write* the dissertation?  Do I actually have to turn my half-baked idea into a book-length analysis that breaks new ground in my field?  Will anyone other than my committee members ever read it?  Will any of its chapters see publication in a journal, or make it to the desk of a job search committee?  It all seems so distant now–though I suppose four years ago qualifying exams and a prospectus seemed equally distant.

Friends have warned me that there is no map of ABD-land, and that it’s easy to spend a full year doing next to nothing.  Given the bleakness of the job market and the constant uncertainty of funding, I’d say that’s a luxury I can’t really afford.  So I’m hoping to set up a schedule very soon–just some sort of routine, even if it’s as basic as creating weekly reading lists and writing goals and forcing myself to work outside the apartment for a set time period each day.  Freedom from any real deadlines and not having anyone to berate you when you don’t get any work done can seem like a blessing (and I’m  sure anyone working under a tyrannical boss would see it that way), but the prospect of so much freedom kind  of scares me.  I think one of my greatest fears isn’t failure, it’s falling into a state of unmotivated-ness and lethargy.

So heaven willing the oral defense will go smoothly and I won’t be told  to revise the whole project.  And if all goes according to plan I’ll be defending the dissertation by spring of 2012.  A lot could certainly happen between now and then, but it’s good to at least have a goal to work toward.


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This entry was posted on May 9, 2010 by in (post) Grad life, Uncategorized and tagged , .
Anne McKnight

writing•translation•scholarship on Japan (and a few other things)

A Modern Girl / モダンガール

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