Last week, I began drafting a project description for what will eventually become my dissertation work. My advisor suggested that it will be useful to bring to the individuals I am asking to be on my exam committee as a starting place for conversations about my project and how the exams will serve that project. Not to mention that the writing I’m doing now–describing my research interests, envisioning the project itself–will both help me talk about my project with others and enable me to write a much longer project description (i.e., a prospectus) by Spring.

I wrote a first draft of the document, feeling pretty pleased with myself. Only after I had about a page’s worth of writing did I think, “Oh, yeah, I should save this document.” Whoops. At any rate, I clicked “save” and and titled the document “dissertation project description.”

And then I created a new folder: “Dissertation.”

Chills went down my spine.

It’s beginning! It’s really beginning! Not that my coursework and research up to this point hasn’t been leading to here–it very much has, of course. It was just that in that moment, in that tiny little act of creating a new file folder just for the dissertation, it started to become tangible. Touchable. Not just an abstract idea and feeling about my current work. Even if that “tangible” thing is only a tiny scratch on my hard drive represented by several pixels of light on my computer screen, it’s still there. A mark in the world that can only continue to grow.

It felt like something worth commemorating. Hence the post.

Today, I took my second draft to one of my exam committee members and talked about exams. The good feeling continues to grow. I hope it will continue to grow even into the actual taking of the exams (and beyond). I’ve watched my friends and colleagues take theirs and it seems like a very, well, nerve-wracking process. And I’m not above that; I get nervous at tests. (I took my WFTDA minimum skills skating test for the 2013 home bouting season so that I can referee scrimmages and bouts on skates again, and I won’t lie. I had my share of nerves about it. Different kind of test, but the principle is still the same. Tests can be scary.) But I hope for the most part, the energy around the process remains positive. There are a lot of myths about graduate students just suffering for their work. I don’t want to totally dismiss other people’s frustrations, but I feel that if you’re suffering too much, you should probably be doing something else. And I intend that kindly. So, here’s hoping I keep on Pollyannaing through the dis. We’ll see how it goes–I’ll be sure to let you know.


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