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Well, my viva is today.

It’s occurred to me more than once in the last couple of months that I really ought to update this blog, but to be honest, I didn’t have much to say. After the relentless drudgery of data collection and analysis and the mad rush to write up and submit my thesis, my head just went blank and all I wanted to do was spend the days bumming around, listening to the radio, eating, and going out for long walks. Sometimes I would flick through my thesis or read a paper or two. Most of the time, I just sat around, dazed, still unable to quite believe I had no urgent work to do.

Anyway, the days passed quicker than I thought they would. Already it’s been nearly 12 weeks since I submitted. Since the first day I started this PhD, the viva has always seemed like a mysterious event, very vague, very far off in the distance. I always knew it would come time to have it eventually, but now that the day’s here, I’m feeling a little nervous. Nervous not just because I’m anxious to do well, but also because I want desperately for things to change now that I’m finally putting the finishing touches to this long, almost never-ending chapter of my life.

It’s at 1pm today. Everything’s set, ready to go. I feel both comfortable and restless in my suit. My shirt’s quite loose and nothing’s itchy or pinchy, but at the same time the newness of the clothes gives me a sense of self-consciousness that’s just slightly daunting. I don’t think I’ve ever even worn a suit before.

My mock viva last week went surprisingly well. I was warned by one of my supervisors not to assume the real viva will be exactly the same, if only because it’s just impossible to predict what the exact questions are going to be, but still, I think having the experience of being ‘interrogated’ by two well-versed academics independent of your supervisory team and having to think on your feet and come up with feasible answers on the spot will prove to be quite indispensable.

Honestly, I’ve no idea what’s going to happen today. I’ve done my best all through this crazy journey. Now’s the time to give this one last shot. With any luck, I’ll pass the damn thing and be done with it.

Some people look forward to getting ‘Dr.’ put on their credit cards when they pass their vivas. I’m just looking forward to my freedom.

I submitted my thesis nearly two weeks ago now.

And as clichéd as it may sound, it feels like an absolute eternity.

For several days afterwards, as I posted about in my previous post, it felt like I had emerged from a massive, never-ending nightmare where I was constantly on the go and constantly, narrowly, blindly obsessing about this central, all-consuming thing in my life: My thesis. Well, it’s gone now. The light-headedness has faded away. The shock has subsided. I feel like maybe I have returned to a degree of normality in my life, even though, at this point, I concede I am not all too sure what normality is supposed to feel like.

There are still things going on that have been keeping me occupied. I am due to give some talks over the next few weeks so there have been presentations to prepare. I’ve been worrying about whether my thesis has reached my examiners safely. I’ve managed to ascertain, through my supervisor, that my internal examiner and chair have their copies, but am still waiting for confirmation from the external. That’s a real worrying point for me. I’ve been having horrible thoughts of the grad school posting it out to the wrong address or the package getting lost in the post or the postal services going on strike. I’ve been trying to block these out but don’t think they will go away until I know the thesis has arrived safely. And going on two weeks now, I really would have expected it to have arrived. To block these thoughts out, I’ve also taken on some paper-grading work, which I finished just yesterday well ahead of the deadline.

Then there’s my life in general…but I’m really not up for talking about that at any length right now.

My viva has been provisionally scheduled for July 29th. I am apprehensive about it to say the least, and for all my hoarding of viva advice from across the breadth of the internet, my nerves still aren’t settled. I feel jumpy, uncertain, and restless about my viva. I don’t know what anything’s going to be like. I have no idea what the examiners are going to think about my thesis or whether they are going to go easy on me or eat me alive, or whether some horrific untoward event is going to happen that cancels my viva altogether, leading to a massive anti-climax.

Thinking about it too much makes me nauseous.

I feel blank, like I don’t know what to do or what to focus my energy and attention on. I feel blank like after having emerged from such an intense, sustained period of disciplined work I am at a loss as to how to spend my time or what to do with myself that will yield something productive and worthwhile.

Sunflower girl, I’m not going to tell you about this post, but I hope you stumble upon it all the same.

The sentiments I hold resemble yours uncannily. In my own way, I’ve been waiting 6 years to be free. Now that time seems so close, and I’m desperate not to let the chance slip out of my hands.

Graduating from primary school, when I had to write what I’d be doing in 10 years’ time for our class of ’01 yearbook, I wrote “Travelling around the world.” It’s going on 12 years since that time and I haven’t travelled nearly as much as I would have liked to. I still feel held back. For 6 years now there’s been the constant pressure of university. First essays, reports, and exams. Then thesis, thesis, thesis. These years have been a blur and sometimes I can hardly distinguish one year from another. And all along there has been the constant feeling that I was still a little girl, still not ready to go out into the world and grow up.

Now, I feel the time to grow up has drawn closer than ever. To grow up and be free.

You’re still in my thoughts and prayers, and I want you to know I have faith in you as a valid human being.

Soon, you, too, will be free.

Well, hasn’t it been a crazy fortnight.

It’s surprising how much stress builds up in your body subconsciously when you wake up at 6am each day, force down a quick breakfast, power-walk to the office, spend the entire day typing, chasing up things you have to rely on other people to do for you, and teaching undergrads, power-walk home at 6pm, force down a quick dinner, and then proofread the day’s work before hitting the pillow at midnight. When I was doing that for the last 2 weeks I never once felt sick. I didn’t even feel particularly tired or cranky. It was just go, go, go.

But now it’s finished, and I’ve stopped, stopped, stopped.

And the migraine has begun.

I was up at 6am again this morning out of habit, but I felt really strange. I finished writing my thesis yesterday. I mean actually fully, totally, finished. Including proofing, cross-checking the references, and formatting. The weirdness started yesterday afternoon when I finished formatting the lists of tables and figures (the last thing I was working on in the thesis). I converted the file to pdf, made multiple backups, and went and delivered a copy to my supervisor. This morning I went to the binder to order the four copies with glue binding. Three for the examiners and the viva chair, one for me.

And today, I’ve just been feeling blank. My head hurts, especially my frontal lobes (which have no doubt been overworked for the last few years and are now in a strange blank state, having nothing left to do). I’ve been chasing up a few last things for submission. I’ve printed my declaration form, and my accompanying materials. Things are almost ready to go for next Wednesday.

I just feel so strange. This has to be the strangest feeling I’ve ever felt. Headache-y, happy, sad, sick, joyful, focused, and insane, all at the same time. And sleepy. Dude, I could do with some sleep right now to get rid of this migraine.

Three years ago I would never have believed I would one day be here, where I am right now. Actually, I didn’t even believe that last week. It didn’t really sink in until the work-till-you-drop routine I’d been on ended yesterday, and I realised there was nothing else left to do. I just sat there at my desk, dazed and stupefied.

I guess that’s what I’m doing now. I just…feel so blank.

But this blankness is different from the blankness I felt when I couldn’t write before. I think it’s a content kind of blankness, a blankness that has seen more than eighty thousand words written, unwritten, and rewritten, and the many thousands more that have come to pass as old, discarded drafts – a blankness that sits back and thinks, well, it’s done. There’s nothing more left to do.

And after I submit next week, I guess I’ll progress to the next stage of the PhD – worrying about my viva.

I wonder if this will ever end.

Today I feel disillusioned with just about every aspect of working in this place that I can think of. I came to my desk this morning with the intention of finishing another chapter’s edits, but to be honest, I’ve hardly achieved as much today as I would have liked to. I’m going to see if I can pick up speed between now and about 5:30pm. I have three hours.

I’m not sure I like my colleagues any more. I’m not sure if I ever genuinely liked them, but I do remember feeling warm about them in times past. I don’t feel that way any more. I suppose there comes a point in long, involved journeys with people that you can’t take their quirks any more no matter how much there’s reason to like them on the surface. I don’t like them. I can’t make myself try to like them. I don’t even want to like them. I don’t even try to be part of their exclusive get-togethers any more. What’s the point of forcing yourself into circles where you’re not really wanted?

There are academics here I don’t like too. I remember liking just about all of them before, but now, one by one, they all seem to have become repulsive to me. I don’t like seeing some of them any more. With others, I just steer clear altogether. Perhaps like my colleagues, none of them have been specifically rude – they just annoy me. They annoy me in the same way that my colleagues annoy me – not by actually saying or doing anything inherently bad, just by their indifference to me or to things that matter more than me – like ethics – and the way they fail to see how fortunate they are in ways I am not.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to speak in riddles. Maybe I don’t. Maybe it’s just an old habit.

 

 

 

The offices where I work on campus are being reorganised. New staff arriving, old staff being called to meetings to talk about the new staff and the reorganisation. New staff getting settled in by the old staff. Old staff being asked to update upstairs staff about new staff. New staff not knowing how things work and asking old staff. Old staff getting frustrated.

I’m glad I’m finishing this thesis. Maybe I’m wrong to feel this way, but I am disillusioned. I think every project has its course and this project has run that course fine and well. If this were to be dragged out any longer, I would go mad. I am glad I am close to finishing, and glad I will be leaving soon. I am politically progressive in every sense of the word but having seen new staff come, old staff go for more than 2 years and being miserably stuck here all along, I’m starting to feel like it’s high time I left. Finished and left. I don’t want to watch new staff come and go and still be stuck here. I don’t want more change in the place I work. I want to change myself.

These last couple of months are probably the hardest. There’s this sense of dread eating away inside me, constantly hurrying me along, telling me there’s no time, no time at all, stop procrastinating and keep writing, writing, writing. But worse than that, I’m starting to feel even more irritated at the people who work around me, especially, and perhaps undeservedly, at the new people, who arrive fresh and bright-eyed and oozing with enthusiasm. I was the same as them when I started; their outlook is natural for their position; I have no place being cynical about them. Yet they have started annoying me to no end.

Sometimes it feels like I am so much part of the furniture that people see right through me; they are indifferent. After all, furniture just sits there silently. Yet inside it’s as if I’m screaming to get out of this place, kicking the doors in, smashing down the windows.

It’s my birthday tomorrow. If I manage to get this chapter I’m working on done by 5pm today, which I’d really like to, but I’m not quite sure, I’ll see how it goes, well…I’m thinking about having the day off tomorrow.

The day off. It even sounds weird when you say it. Thesis writers don’t take days off.

But hey, whatever. Once this chapter is sent off I just have my conclusion chapter and some editing/rewriting of the lit review, and then the full thesis draft will be done. I’m nearly there. I think I might be able to afford 24 hours away from the grindstone. Maybe.

I’m thinking of doing some baking.

And, having recently come by a ‘hip’ commercial radio station by accident whilst looking for some decent background tunes while writing my thesis, I also find that I am allergic to Justin Boober and that makes-me-want-to-tear-my-ears-off annoying boyband…One Dimension, or something.

Ok. I’m going to keep calm and write my thesis.

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This one’s for all you gorgeous female scientists out there…

Further to today’s short rant about my successes and uncertainties in the writing world, I just wanted to mention that listening to Prince’s new song on the radio this morning just made me want to moonwalk. And do those fingers-rippling-through-the-air vibe-y moves they used to do in the 70s.

Rock n’ Roll Love Affair

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The Final Countdown

Submission of PhD ThesisMay 1st, 2013
The big day is here. Joy to the world!