One of the frequent questions I keep getting asked now that I’m done is, “How is post-dissertation life?” What is life like now that I no longer have a dissertation hanging over my head? I think it took to April to even get used to the idea that I no longer have a big project to work on. I wish I could say I was working on multiple projects, getting things done, but aside for resubmitting a journal article, my academic self has been taking a much needed break.
But, as I’m sure I have mentioned, I am not good at taking breaks. I like to find projects for myself. I like having long-term, endurance-style things to work on like my dissertation or training for a race — neither of which I can do right now. I am less than six weeks away from the baby’s due date. We’re moving to Texas around six weeks after that. Two weeks after that we start our jobs. Basically, all I really think I am doing is waiting for whatever happens next.
And, as Tom Petty once wisely sang, “The waiting is the hardest part.” I’m a type-A planner, but how do you plan with the next big thing when you have no idea what the next big thing will actually look like? As much as I can “plan” for the baby and the massive life-changes created by being a parent and a full-time job, I really have no idea what it will be like, so I feel stuck in a kind of limbo.
March was kind of a “lost month,” but here is how I am trying to handle all the unknowns right now.
Administrative projects. So no big academic projects, but I am trying to do a lot of things for “future Ali.” Currently, I have been spending quality time with the scanner. I have around three boxes of class notes to go through. Because they are all in notebook paper, I can’t do it quickly, but have to do one side at a time. It is dull work, but I know that come mid-July I’ll be glad to have three less boxes to pack and having all my notes and papers digitized in my Dropbox and Evernote should surely be the gift that keeps on giving. I’m doing the same with downsizing my kitchen, clothes, and books. What will I be really happy that come July I don’t have to do?
Taking advantage of not having a real schedule. I have not woke up to an alarm since February. I have been sleeping until 7-7:30am most mornings. For an early riser – sometimes between 4-5:00am – this has been some consistent sleeping in for me. Mornings are incredibly slow as I try to do some reading and actually take the time to clean the kitchen post-breakfast. I have had plenty of mornings recently where I have been in my pj’s sitting on the couch with a book until CrossFit at noon. I feel lazy, but I am trying to enjoy that I can do this while I can.
Move. I don’t mean preparing to move, but I mean not being sedentary. This one is not that hard, because I typically look forward to going to CrossFit. But as I get bigger and grow more uncomfortable, my enthusiasm levels tend to waver. For example — just today I had a very “what’s the point? I don’t have any big goals, so why even bother” moment. These last few weeks are a reminder that showing up is the goal, even if I cannot PR or go fast or feel like a walrus half the time. It may not seem to make a difference now, but after baby, after recovery, I’ll be glad I put in this time. Improvements are being made even if I cannot tell right now.
And that is basically it. Without a big project, I feel kind of aimless, but if I look at this as a time of preparation, it feels much better. It makes the waiting not only bearable, but enjoyable. I keep trying to remind myself that when I’m busy with baby and teaching, I’ll be really glad I was able to enjoy this mental break.
Have you ever had a “limbo” period in life? How did you handle it? Are you someone who prefers to have big projects and busy days?