I am planning on turning my dissertation in early next week — the whole thing. I have been working on the dissertation itself for about two years now. I started researching for the proposal I believe this time 2017 (I took my comps in fall 2016 — but desperately needed a break, so I think I read novels and did nothing for two months straight, ah the luxuries of academic life). It was approved late April, early May (can’t exactly remember) and I turned in my first chapter five days after I got married. I’ve been working on it ever since. The time I’ve been working on the topic, if not the dissertation, becomes even longer if I include that it developed out of a paper I turned in fall 2015. So three and a half years. Me, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, religion, and politics.
Even though I still have other requirements to fulfill after I submit — the defense and public presentation, I am starting to feel kind of strange that this is the end. I have no idea what comes after. So much of my life has revolved around this dissertation — anticipation for the dissertation, preparation for the dissertation, talking about the dissertation, researching for the dissertation, and of course, writing the dissertation. No longer having that big “d” word hanging over head feels like both a gain and a loss.
It is a gain for obvious reasons. These are the very final requirements for my doctorate, a process I began in 2013, something I wanted to do for ten years now. My undergraduate professors were (are) rock stars to me, modeling a way of life as much as they taught me about books. I loved what I did. I wanted to continue — well how to do that? Get a Ph.D. Those three letters do not mean that much to me as a credential. Instead, I think of them as representative of ten years of study, conversation, reading, thinking, and writing. Finishing is a gain because it reflects all those years.
I think it obvious why it might be a loss though. A long time ago — back in fourth grade — I told people I wanted to be a librarian, because I was under the impression that all they did all day was read. Cute, right? I know now that is not true, but I have been able to do just that for the last ten years really. I just hang out and read all day. I write about what I read. Last semester I taught what I read. My life revolves around reading, just as I had always wanted it. I get paid to sit around and read, with of course the stipulation that I’ll eventually finish this dissertation. I have no idea what I will do after this, but I can wager a guess that I probably will not be hanging out reading and writing all day.
Turning in my dissertation feels loaded. I’m a bit sad about it. But at the same time, I’m happy, proud of myself for finishing and for the work put in. I’m amazed that it is almost done, almost all over, that within a month, maybe a month and half — depending on how long it takes to schedule my defense — I will be completely done.
In the meantime, I’ll enjoy these last few days of sitting at my desk, scrambling to get things done. I’m sure I’ll enjoy the break from it too, but for now, I want to enjoy working on my dissertation for the little time left with it I have.*
*At least — in its form as a dissertation. It could very well be that the end has no end here.