March 2019 Goals : How did it go?

dissertation, goals, graduate school, year of 1% better

Contains Amazon affiliate links. 

If you’re new here, I declared 2019 the Year of 1% Better. You can see January goals here and outcomes here, February goals here, and February outcomes and March goals here.

I started last month feeling burnt out post-dissertation. I’m happy to say I feel much better now. I’m not ready to go get it yet, but March featured some big changes. We know we’ve moving. We know we have jobs for next year (a big relief). I still feel tired, but this is more physically because of being in the third trimester, not from stress and mental exhaustion. Of course — I’m still stressed. Who am I kidding? But at least the stress is about different things and not well, the big D-word (dissertation).

I did begin to downsize. I donated two trash bags of clothing to my little sisters, packed a fair amount of clothes I knew I probably would not be able to fit into for awhile yet, and am starting another trash bag of clothes now. We started bringing up boxes of books from the basement to go through and determine what to donate. All primary texts are safe, classics we thought we would read have to go. I actually expected to be more attached to my books, like “oooo, I totally want to read that” but I guess my self-expectations have become more reasonable, because when Bruno held up Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, I responded, “Yeah, get rid of it.” Sorry, Waugh. This moving vehicle will have no room for good intentions.

Although it is a day late for my March goals, I did resubmit my “revise and resubmit” for an academic journal yesterday. I really struggled with procrastination on this one. I probably could have had everything done much earlier, late February or early March, but I dreaded working on it. I would set a half hour timer and persuade myself, “Ok, just a half hour. You can do a half hour.” And I would go from there. This was sort of the last big thing hanging over my head, so now it is done I can say I feel free. Until, the next thing of course. I’m considering getting another article ready to send out before baby comes, but given that my future career decision kind of means leaving the academic rat race, I’m not sure.

Did I relax? Define “relax.” Ok, ok, it is true, I feel much better than I did at the start of the month. I spent a lot of time reading, which was great. I began thinking about post-graduate school goals. Also, great. When I was tired, I slept. I start trading out rowing for wods. So yes, I would say I relaxed, but I still think it is something I need to work on. A lot of my relaxing time, I found myself scanning through facebook or instagram. Still, less than I used to, but more than I want to be on those websites. I’ll just keep working.

How did your March goals go? We’re a fourth of the way through the year, is 2019 going strong?

 

 

 

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On Impostor Syndrome and my Dissertation Defense

dissertation, graduate school

Last week Wednesday, I defended my dissertation. The following day I gave my public lecture. And just like that, it was all done. Aside for responding to any corrections to Turabian and citation formatting, I am finished. A Ph.D. Everything went well. I was told that people thought my public lecture was good and the question/answer section went satisfactorily. It would appear everything went smoothly.

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The picture of confidence, right?

But frankly, until we got home Thursday night it was one of the worst weeks I have had in graduate school. I don’t think I’ve had such a bad week since my comprehensive exams where I just felt immobilized by worry. And trust me, I’m naturally anxious so even for me this was excessive. And I knew, I knew my anxiety was irrational. Nobody lets you defend if they think you are going to fail. It would be a total waste of everyone’s time.

That said — the whole time I was sure, certain even, that this was the moment where I would be found out. I do not know anything about Jean-Jacques Rousseau. I was pretty sure that after all was said and done people would think, “Goodness, I thought this was supposed to be good?” I was afraid my public lecture would be incomprehensible or boring. I was terrified that I would be unable to satisfactorily answer a single question. I would be given my Ph.D. sure, but at the cost of everyone finding out I was a fraud.

I have been dealing with “impostor syndrome” since I started graduate school. And though all evidence over the last six years has shown me that I am perfectly capable of fulfilling all requirements, not just well, but sometimes extremely well, I have never been able to shake it. Not very inspiring or encouraging, right? But then again, courage never meant completely shaking off fear exactly.

After the public lecture, we went home. I celebrated with a can of bubbly…La Croix. I felt immediately better. I was just so happy that it was indeed finally over. A few days — I still feel happy, although I probably could use a return of structure to my day! It is almost as if the feelings of impostor syndrome never existed.

I know they are still there though. I’m not sure yet what to do about impostor syndrome, except to just simply make peace that yes, this does happen. I think the important thing is to understand that I’m irrationally worried and do what it is anyway. That method, at the very least, seems to have worked out for me.

And most importantly, I am still done.

 

 

What I’m Loving Lately V

books, daily life, dissertation, food, music

Before I even get started, I should say that what I am loving lately the most is heat and our furnace. I am loving modernity and the industrial revolution, because I feel like I am living in a Jack London novel. I am loving that I have a flexible schedule that allows for me to stay home all day if I want to. Being a graduate student is (sometimes) the best. With wind chill in the -40s in Michigan today (although strangely it will be 48 degrees on Sunday), I am very much loving that I am inside.

Watching: Like everyone else this past week, I watched the Fyre documentaries on Netflix and Hulu. You know you are a total nerd when, you go to Krogers and make lame jokes with your husband about “late stage capitalism” the entire time you picking out what you are about to binge on (peanut butter m and m’s and yogurt covered pretzels for me, Twizzlers for Bruno), probably scaring the other consumers. Ok, back to the documentaries. I recommend and I’ll admit not for the most virtuous of reasons. I definitely have a sort of #richpeopleproblems attitude to the whole debacle. There was one “influencer” who was not even shown for longer than two minutes (in both documentaries) who made me rage (“low, low economy”). I will say though it made me question whether I was part of the problem due to my (probably excessive) use of Instagram, so I pre-ordered Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism to try to temper my social media-addict ways. Sidenote: the Fyre Festival memes on ultrarunningmemes are gold.

Listening: I am really liking Weezer’s Teal Album. I did not initially love their cover of Toto’s Africa, but it grew on me and I was pleasantly surprised with all the other covers on the album. A few favorites: Everybody Wants to Rule the World, Sweet Dreams are Made of These, and Paranoid. Weezer covering Black Sabbath may be one of the most fun songs I’ve heard in awhile. I went through a Weezer phase in high school (this is a thing, right?) and listened to plenty of the Blue Album and Pinkerton (just like this SNL sketch), but then never really listened to them again. So, it has been fun to listen to those albums again.

Reading: Confession? Not much. I’m reading True Devotion to Mary as a part of this reading challenge, but most of my reading has been Jean-Jacques Rousseau and dissertation-related as I begin to prepare for my defense next month. So yeah, strangely nothing too exciting here unless you are into the sources of inequality and the great swindle that led to political society.

Eating: I have been having bad cravings again. I made these blondies yesterday to satiate my sugar tooth and they were amazing. But mostly, it has been nothing too exciting — lots of soups made from my favorite cookbook. I switched up my flour from white to whole wheat for my sour dough bread and it was just ok — why does the bad stuff always taste better? I did start making my own yogurt and I will admit, it tastes much better than what you can get in the store.

I hope you all are staying warm! What are you loving lately?

 

 

 

So What is Good?

crossfit, daily life, dissertation, pregnancy, running

After yesterday’s whine, I must admit I am feeling much better today. Not physically (I’m still in pain), but mentally. I also did not wake up at 2 am, but at 5:30 today — the difference between five hours of sleep vs. eight hours!

So here is what’s good:

I sent my final dissertation chapter to my committee yesterday.  All had read it before, but this was the official and final version. I wrote a conclusion today. All that is left is to make sure formatting and citations are in order and I can officially submit my dissertation.

It is looking like I will defend before I turn 29. Age is arbitrary, but when one of my options was to have my defense on February 4th (my birthday is the next day) as opposed to dates later in the month, I took it. Ph.D. before thirty here I come!

I received a revise and resubmit from a peer-reviewed academic journal. After two rejections, this one felt good! I read through the comments and they look interesting and useful. I will probably not work on it until I’m officially all done with the dissertation — one thing at a time, people! — but I am hoping to get my edits and changes in by the end of February. If it gets accepted, it will be my first academic publication (not a small deal). Huzzah!

Credit at the chiropractor’s office. I will not see my chiropractor until Friday afternoon (get here soon, please!). However, all my visits are financial-guilt free. Years ago, back when I was on my mom’s insurance (thanks Obama!), all my visits were covered, yet I still paid out of pocket for them. Then they would credit me for my next visit, etc. I don’t know, it got confusing, but I still went all the time. I am a real bone-crackin’ believer. Anyway I did not go for several years. Turns out I had a several hundred dollar credit. It is like a gift from past me to future me. Like “Hey future self, you’ll be pregnant, probably in pain, and trying to save in a few years. This is for you.”

Taking a walk outside. Today I did some walking and about a mile and a half of running outside, totaling around three miles. I do not care about the cold. It feels so good to be outside. Yes, I feel stiff and sore and running does not feel lovely, but not being indoors, not being on the treadmill is its own gift. I listened to my dissertation-writing playlist and generally felt joyful.

So yeah, my running is declining. I landed weird (like actually felt a pop) on my left foot while attempting double-unders at CrossFit today and my ankle is swollen (help me ice and ace bandage!). My pelvis hurts. Physically I feel like a mess, but I’m grateful. I’m grateful to just be moving. I’m grateful that I managed twenty-five double-unders today during the work-out which is twenty-five more than the last work-out where I attempted to do them. I’m grateful that today was spent writing and not editing.

So, there you go. That’s what’s good.

This is the (Very Near) End

dissertation, goals, graduate school, year of 1% better

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.

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Hanging out at the Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau in Paris. Also, home of the original Christian Louboutin store. Not pictured, me salivating over those beautiful red-soled shoes.

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.

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At the memorial to Rousseau in the Pantheon (he is buried in the crypts). 

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.

 

 

January 2019 Goals : The Year of 1% Better

crossfit, dissertation, goals, reading, running, year of 1% better

If you missed it, last week I declared 2019 the Year of 1% Better. Because so many things this year are to be determined (motherhood, post-graduate school life, where I will be working to name just a few big ones), I have decided to take things month-by-month and do little things to improve and, well, be better.

As you might have guessed from yesterday’s post, my January goals are already side-tracked. Excruciating pelvic pain at the end of last week has moved me to plan B: do what I can. That said, yesterday I felt pretty much fine, worked out and felt fine, and still feel fine today. So maybe, just maybe, it was an end of the first week of 2019 thing and will not derail my whole January. Fingers crossed!

Ok, ok. So here are the goals for this month:

SUBMIT MY DISSERTATION. This is the goal of all goals — the goal where all goals must be sacrificed to, if need be. This is what I have been working on for the last year and a half. And yes, it is finally happening. I am done with going through editing and formatting three chapters, with two to go. This one will probably be done next week, but it is the most important. I have been a Ph.D. student since 2013. 2019 will be the year I graduate. Six years.

91 Miles. This is one of those goals on Strava that different company’s post. Apparently 91 miles in January is 2x the amount of the average Strava runner in 2019. I do not care if I ran these or walk these (most likely both). I just want to do it while I can.

Do not, do not, DO NOT go out to eat at all for the entire month. We are so bad at this. One of us (ok, it is me. It is always me.) will be like, “I don’t feel like cooking.” Next thing you know, I’m eating a cheeseburger at a restaurant in town. It is not even like this place has a ton of delicious places to eat, so usually I’m eating a meal that is just ok. There are loopholes with this – if someone invites us out to eat and Culver’s custard when we do our grocery shopping on Sundays.

Double-under practice 3x week. Last week, I only did two days. I’m going to try to pick it back up this week. Note I did not say “accomplish double-unders.” I cannot guarantee that, but I’m hoping by putting in a little bit of time, I will get better and manage to do more than one every single time I try to do them.

Swim 1x week. I missed swimming, so I just want to incorporate it back in and do just a little session in the pool every week. So far, so good.

CathLIT2019. I guess this is more of a 2019 goal, but the idea is to read one book on Catholicism a month. The blog Carrots for Michaelmas put together a whole list with categories that I am going to try to follow. I’m trying to do what I think may be more denser, more time-consuming books prior to baby C’s arrival. This month’s category is a book about Mary, so I’m reading Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary (which arrived just yesterday…hooray!).

Poach an egg. Categorize this in random, but seriously, I do not know how to do this. I should know how to do this. I want to know how to do this. I will learn how to do this, even if it takes me more cartons of eggs than I expect. My favorite breakfast in the world is eggs benedict and I’m not gong to be able to do it without going out to eat if I do not figure out how to poach some eggs. This is the year, people.

What are your goals for January? For 2019?

 

 

 

 

 

Take It Easy

books, crossfit, daily life, dissertation, graduate school, Harry Potter, health, pregnancy, reading, running

Yesterday we had our second prenatal appointment. Everything looks and sounds good. My bloodwork was great and the baby’s heart was beating at around 154 bpm. Week thirteen starts Friday and then it is just one more week until I am out of the first trimester. I was actually really confused by this. I had thought after twelve weeks I was in the second trimester, but I guess it starts in the fourteenth week. Eventually I will figure all of this out, maybe?

Anyway — I was sick most of the day yesterday (and this morning too). Wednesday’s are hard days for me. Tuesday night is when I teach my Constitution class. It ends around 9pm — close to when I normally go to bed. However, I’m usually so amped from teaching I cannot sleep or if I do sleep it is restless. I wake up Wednesday morning feeling all sorts of messed up. Next thing you know, I have a bad headache that just will not go away and a stomach that will not settle down. And though I know and understand why and have tried to account for the fact that “Wednesday’s are hard,” it is hard to not get frustrated with myself anyways.

Like with the fact that I have not worked out since a Monday short ride on the trainer or that not much has been done with the dissertation since I found out chapter five was approved (that changed this morning, but still). After several days of feeling like a not just like a normal functioning human being, but frankly like a total ball-buster, the house is a disaster again, dishes are piling up and my clothes are everywhere. I had that bathroom perfectly clean before Thanksgiving! How do things go downhill so quickly? Just a few days of feeling terrible and it feels like all hell breaks loose.

I know. I know. Take it easy. I’m trying. Yesterday, I finished the first Harry Potter book and read some Bulgakov. I didn’t cave and order a buffalo chicken sandwich (buffalo sauce being my ultimate craving right now) and made a healthy-ish lunch (black bean soup and homemade sour dough bread). Bruno took care of dinner.

Today it is only 9:40 in the morning and I’ve already gotten more done than I did yesterday. I worked on getting the complete dissertation put together (and learned I have no idea how to use Microsoft Word). I submitted a journal article. I will probably actually run today and make it to CrossFit. I know days are like this. I just wish I would have more patience with myself in the process.

xo, Ali

 

 

Thoughts on Working from Home

daily life, dissertation

A couple months ago, at a friend’s wedding a college friend of mine told me that it must be nice to work from home. You do not have to get dressed. You do not have to go anywhere. It seems really easy.

I get it. And I admit to enjoying the advantages of working from home. I can decide when I work out. There is nowhere I have to physically be. The flexibility is wonderful.

Recently an aunt of mine showed up to my house as a surprise. It was 10:30am. I was still in pajamas and the house was chaos. I woke up, poured myself some coffee, and started writing. So, yes, I was doing something, but I was kind of embarrassed to be a 28 year old woman still in pjs on before lunch on a Tuesday.

But I do not love working from home. For one thing, even though being a productive writer makes me happy, sitting around in pajamas all day does not. Being in my house all day makes me agitated, anxious even. Then there is the work/home separation. I wake up. I go to my desk. I work. When I make lunch, there it is, just sitting there. I cannot leave it. It lives with me. There is no end of the day. Even when I’m not working, it is there reminding me that I could be working.

One of the things I’m trying to make more an effort to do this semester is work on campus consistently. Even though I try to do working hours at home, it just is not the same. I need physical separation. I need to have that feeling of coming home from work. I was at work, but now I am home.

I’ve never been one for procrastination or putting things off, but I think going to campus allows for a little bit more order in the day. When I’m home, everything seems to meld together. I’m writing a dissertation and doing laundry. I’m sitting at my desk, but I’m aware, all-too-aware that the dishes need to be done and the living room is a mess. Mental energy.

I have been working in the library for a week now and it feels better. When I go home for the night, I know I’m done for the day. It makes a world of difference.

xo, Ali

Monday Miles : July 23-29, 2018

crossfit, cycling, dissertation, graduate school, monday miles, running, swimming, training, triathlon

I’m not burnt out. I don’t work hard enough to be burnt out. But I admit that I ended last week feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. It did not matter that I received good news — fourth dissertation approved! one chapter to go! — I ended last week and began this week with the big question: what next? This is the last year of funding. Now what? And then swarmed all the things I had to do to improve already approved dissertation chapters, make myself viable for jobs, the shoddy job market, fears of not being smart enough, not working hard enough, not being a good enough writer, etc. In other words, hello anxiety.

The relationship between regular life stress and working out stress are probably not discussed enough. I see plenty about recovery from hard work out weeks, but not much about hard life weeks. Most of the time working out makes me feel better, but then sometimes it feels like another thing on the never ending list of things to do.

So I took a recovery weekend. It worked out well because I went home to Ohio. My sister had a baby (a girl!!) and my mom watched my two nephews. I helped watch the boys and visited my sister and the new baby in the hospital. We swam in the pond. Bruno and I went out to a new place on a lake for fish tacos and beers, listening to a local cover band play “Fight for Your Right to Party” while we discussed whether the right to party was a natural or civil right. It was a nice weekend, but I’ll admit. I came back to Michigan full of anxiety.

I’m hoping the recovery weekend will help me out in the long run though, that long run being the Legend trail half-marathon this Saturday. I want to feel energized and rejuvenated come this weekend, not frazzled and exhausted.

Anyway — here are last week’s workouts.

7 – 23 : Rest

7 – 24 : CrossFit. WOD: Run 5k for time. Time: 26:29 minutes. Mile 1 = 8 minutes, 2 = 8:30 minutes, 3 = 8:49 seconds, .15 = 7.53. This was hard and about three minutes slower than my 5k PR, but I was glad to know where I am. Onward.

7 – 25: CrossFit. Warm-up: 2 x 10 ring-rows, 10 push-ups, 10 good-mornings, 10 air squats, 30 second plank, 1 minute run. WOD: The Chief. Max rounds – 3 minutes. 3 power cleans, 6 push-ups, 9 air squats. Rest 1 minute. Repeat 5 cycles. My form is improving! This is the first lift aside from dead lifts and squats that I’ve been able to actually use a barbell on. Improvements! I used a naked barbell at 33 pounds and — also very exciting! — none of my push-ups were scaled. I did them all regular. Rounds: 3 + 2, 3 + 2, 3, 3, 3 + 3. Like the 5k, I have plenty of room for improvement, but I was happy for those two wins.

7 – 26: Swim. 200m breast stroke. Descending ladder, 150m, 100, 100, 50 x 8 with 30s rest. 100m breast stroke. 1,050 meters. Bike. 6 miles. 29 minutes.

7 – 27: Rest.

7 – 28: Rest.

7 – 29: Rest.

Totals: Run 3.15 miles. Swim 1050 meters. Bike 6 miles. CrossFit 2 hours.

xo, Ali

 

Brief Thoughts on Turning a Dissertation Chapter In

dissertation, graduate school, Jean-Jacques Rousseau

I turned in my fourth chapter after work today. I had just a few citations to fix (as a Catholic, I do not happen to keep the volumes of Institutes of Christian Religion around, har! har!). It took me less time than I thought. It took me longer to just send the email with the chapter attached. Tomorrow I’ll go through my advisor’s recommendations for the third chapter and eventually begin chapter five. It will probably my last chapter.*

It is strange to be so close to finishing. I have been in school since I was five. This will be my sixth year in graduate school. I do not know how to think of my life outside of the school calendar, the four seasons being: fall semester (the real beginning of the year), winter break (four weeks of aspired productivity which turns out to be not so productive), spring semester, and summer (busier than you would ever expect).

That said, by being closed to “finishing,” I mean only with the dissertation. I’m not sure if a topic like this — Rousseau on Christianity and citizenship — anyone is ever finished, or if anyone will ever have the last word. Most of the time, I’m not even sure if Rousseau ever finalized his thoughts on the topic. There are topics in life that I hope I never have a “final” opinion on. I always want to be thinking, learning. Never dogmatic.

I always feel weird after I turn anything in or finish anything that took awhile. I can’t quite jump into the next thing just yet, so I am in a kind of limbo. Between chapters, I feel a mild form of this. After semesters, I would feel this in the extreme. I would leave an exam and think, “Now what?” I suspect after I defend the dissertation, I’ll feel the same way. I get stressed about being “busy,” but at the same time I don’t like not having things to do.

I’ve been trying to avoid the “reward myself” mentality, but tonight I will not do any work. I’ll sit on the couch and read a novel. I’ll go to bed a little earlier and maybe not wake up at four in the morning. Then, after work on Friday afternoon, I will be back to it, dissertation writing as usual.

xo, Ali

*Unless it gets split in two like chapter three, which I originally turned in back in April.