thesis

Thinking About the Ph.D

I adore being a student. This past Fall was my first not being a student since 2007, which was when I graduated with my bachelors. I love it. Learning is a hobby of mine. This is why I adore reading reading, and I never minded writing research papers. I love to learn. Love. It. Apparently, I don’t give off this vibe to my peers or profressors.

I mentioned in my last post about how my thesis chair snubbed Missy and I at dinner at the AWP conference. Well, the day before, we had met up: Missy, TC (thesis chair), and another professor from my thesis committee (Professor Nice and Friendly). We sat near the bar area and talked about life after grad school, books, and a bit of gossip.

Missy is currently in a Ph.D. program so of course Ph.Ding came up.

“So, One Mean,” TC began, “You’re not thinking of doing a Ph.D. are you?” She said this more as a statement, than as a question.

She continued, “Would that really be a great fit?”

I sat there stunned, wishing I had been born with wit. Wishing I had the ability to think quickly, to respond with something smart and that would sting. Wishing I had a zinger.

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe.” I said. How do  you respond to a comment like that? How do you respond to the suggestion that you’re clearly not good enough to even bother applying.

“Would you enjoy that?” She asked.

“I don’t know, maybe if it was a creative writing Ph.D.”

“Hmph.”

Hmph?????? Really? Hmph? Is it really that surprising that I would want a Ph.D.? I mean, Jesus I went into a program that was practically an M.A. combined with an M.F.A. I f*#king love to learn! Look at me, I’m a top notch nerd. Right?

So, after being deflated, Missy and I left to go explore D.C.

I kept hearing TC’s question run through my head. More than anything, I couldn’t get the tone of it out of my head. Am I not good enough to do a Ph.D.? Was I imagining TC’s patronizing tone? Did she mean it that way?

And then of course, I asked myself the age old question: Am I crazy?

I decided to ask Missy if I had misinterpreted TC’s tone?

“No, I heard it too.” She paused. “You? Hmph? a Ph.D.?”

We laughed and joked about for the duration of AWP, but I clearly am still struggling with this.

I’ve been lucky to have a supportive family and network of friends. I’ve never been told, I can’t do something, or that I shouldn’t try. Even though my parents have been rough on me, they’ve never once, suggested I don’t have the ability to do something. You can be anything when you grow up was and is not something new. The sky’s the limit. All that motivational crap. This is probably why I was so shocked when TC questioned my passion. And even more than my passion, she questioned my ability.

I’m not imagining this right?

Well, even if I am, this incident has definitely fueled a fire of inspiration in me. Never have I ever wanted to prove someone so very wrong. Maybe I won’t be getting a Ph.D., that doesn’t mean I can’t. I definitely will work even harder at that tenure track line of work. No one. No. One. Tells ME I can’t do something.

Who knows, maybe she was intentionally using reverse psychology on me because she knows I’m awesome.

Or she was just being a bitch.

Regardless, I’m fired up. Whose with me?! (Sorry, I was channeling that scene in Beauty and the Beast when Gaston gets all the villagers to go to castle to “Kill the Beast.” I’ll stop now.)

Still, I’m having a hard time getting over how demoralizing it is to have a mentor make such a suggestion. She was like my sponsor. I thought she was supposed to be supportive. Mentors and thesis chairs are supposed to be supportive, right?

FH tells me not to care about what she thinks or anyone else for that matter. This is why I’m marrying him. The boy has got my back. Still, my feelings have been hurt and now I have to get over it. Good thing, I can laugh and write about it.

Still, I’m not taking the Ph.D. off the table just because one person thinks I’m not good enough. F-that.

What do you think, am I overreacting? Crazy?

Well, maybe just answer the overreacting question…I think I already know the answer the am I crazy question.

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The Final Draft

I just submitted the final draft of my thesis to my committee. I feel pretty good about it. It still needs quite a bit of work, especially if it’s going to ever be an Oprah’s Book Club selection.

I know I should feel really awesome right now, but I guess I don’t because I still have to format it, get a million signatures, and defend it in the next couple of weeks.

Once the defense is over I think I’ll finally start feeling more like a graduate and less like a student.

Have you ever completed a huge project and not felt satasified?

I kind of feel like I’m dangling on the edge of cliff and I just need once last push to feel the rush of air on my face.

Thoughts?

Goals Goals GOOOOOOOALLLLLLS!

Sitting next to me is my revised thesis which still needs revising. While I’m sure I will feel it needs perpetual revision, this weekend I found myself unable to get anything writing related done. My final final final draft is due to my committee on the 7th. So I basically have about 10 days to get it done.  This weekend I instead starting making big plans for the up and coming months.

Because of my brilliant planning, I am done teaching any new literature to my high schoolers, and have actually made copies of just about everything I’m going to need for the rest of the year. There are a few things here and there that will need copying, but there is hardly any homework to grade, because most of it will be drafts of their final paper. I’m looking forward to summer, because these past few months of teaching have taken it out of me.

I will say that I think teaching this past semester, at the high school, has forced me to be productive. Last night while watching whatever was on TBS and then later North by Northwest, I reorganized all my previous teaching materials into psychotically organized binders. I still have to do the same with my teaching stuff at work, but once it’s done I’ll be good to go.

Spending this past semester working on my thesis and teaching high school, I have learned a lot about what direction I’d like to take and teaching high school is not it.  It could be that I’ve had  a rough experience, but I do find that I’m too invested in writing and this is why teaching at the secondary level is not for me.

I’ve been so eager to get out of the high school that I decided sometime this past week that I needed to start packing up my classroom.  While it may be premature, because they may ask me back, I have found myself thinking about what papers I’ll be recycling and which papers I will be organizing into binders. Also, some of the old teacher’s things are still in my classroom and frankly I would like to have the whole room packed up and ready to go by the 8th.

My writing goals to be completed by August:

1)  To write another food essay

2) To write two to three short stories (in the first person) my thesis is in the third and I’ve been itching to write in a character’s voice

3) To publish some more work (at least one)

4) To get a job at the college or university level (this will mostly depend on the market but I have faith that my CV is pretty good and will land me a job)

5) To be halfway done with major revisions to my thesis as I work towards having it ready to send to publishers.

Some reading goals:

I’d like to finish reading some books I started and didn’t finish including:

The Time Traveler’s Wife

-The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao

-The Road

I’d also like to finally read:

-Jane Eyre ( I know how I have not read it yet)

Love in the Time of Cholera

-Dante’s Inferno

Goals that have nothing to do with writing or reading

1) I’d like to get back into my running routine. My sprained ankle and laziness has gotten me into a running rut.

2) Finally get my apartment decorated–this will require funding and right now the money situation doesn’t look good.

Well, I feel good having written down some goals. It always makes them more official when you know some people will be reading them and you have to live up to them. I’m thinking I’ll update you guys on my progress after my thesis defense.

Holy crap I’m so close.

 

Revisions: CHECK!

Well, I’m now one step closer to graduation in August.

This afternoon I finally finished revising my thesis. While I know I’m not completely finished (there are some minor additions and subtractions that I need to do) I’m really close to being done.

When I got to my last ten pages I broke down in tears. I couldn’t breathe, but I was smiling. It’s crazy to be able to see the light at the end of an oh-so-dark tunnel.

I’m super excited to be inching close to a goal that I’ve had for so many years. I’m also stoked because once I’m completely done I can start working on some new projects that have been marinating in my brain. I have a ton of short stories I’d like to write, and I’m cooking up a nonfiction piece that I’m eager to get into.

Even though it’s very exciting I still have a twenty page essay that I need to write and I have to get all the formatting on point. I know I’m really close to getting it done and don’t want to forget about my end goal.

In the meantime, I’ll be working on this essay and working with the graduate college on my formatting. I’ll be defending some time in June and then holy crap I’ll really be One Mean MFA!

God-willing I’ll find a job that doesn’t require parents calling me to tell me I’m too mean. More on the high school teaching later.

For now I think I’ll celebrate with a much-needed workout!

Later tonight, I actually get to have my boyfriend back because the past two weeks we’ve both been so busy that we have barely seen each other. It’s been a lot of phone calls that go something like this…

HIM: Am I coming over for dinner tonight?

ME: Sorry, I’m not quite done with this project.

HIM: No worries.

or

ME: Sorry I was going to make dinner for us but this is taking longer than expected.

HIM: No worries.

or

HIM: I’m not going to be coming over.

ME: Why?

HIM: I don’t want to be a distraction.

ME: Oh, fine….

This has been life for the past two weeks. I’m glad I’ll be able to start cooking for someone other than myself.

REVISIONS CHECK!

End of Project Blues

I can’t quite figure out what the hell is wrong with me. While I am tempted to say a lot of things, I’m really more concerned with one thing. Why the hell did I waste today and not finally just finish revising my last forty pages?

I woke up this morning and thought, “Make some breakfast, have your coffee, then get to work.”

Well, before I knew it I realized I had a hair appointment and then when I got back from that I decided I needed to get a tomato plant and other plants. I then returned from the garden center and got to work repotting some plants and well now it’s late, I’m tired, and I haven’t revised a gosh darn page.

The thing is, these final pages are due on Monday. If don’t turn them I can say good-bye to summer graduation. Shouldn’t that be enough of an incentive to force myself to focus? I mean really, hasn’t this project gone on enough?! Why do I torture myself like this?

Why?

Well, I’ve been wondering about this all day, as I worked on things other than my thesis. Instead of enjoying the gardening and hair appointment the whole time I kept thinking, “I should be writing.” This is no way to live. Instead of just getting it done I’m procrastinating. I’m like my students. GAH!

Could it be that I’m afraid to finish? I mean there is something scary about being done with this degree and not having any clue what the future will bring. While I’m well aware that regardless of if I finish I don’t know what my future will be like, it’s like when I finish this novel a large chapter of my own life will be ending and that is always frightening.

As my graduation day approaches, I have been applying for jobs that an MFA is more than qualified for, and as I receive rejection letters up the ying-yang, and my bank account quickly dwindles to nothing, I feel like starting in August life is going to be tough. Real tough. Not grad student budget tough, like I-can’t-get-student-loans-because-I-graduated tough and I can’t find a job because the market sucks. Which is scary because there are no jobs and while NPR reports the economy is getting better I can’t say I’m even close to being able to live comfortably. I basically spend my money on food and gas, both of which are expensive, especially when you love to eat fresh produce.

My most recent paycheck didn’t even cover my rent this month and once my bills get paid, I’m done. I don’t have any money. NOTHING. I’m not quite sure how I’ll be gassing up my car to get to a job that doesn’t pay me enough to even get there.

I think about all these things, as I procrastinate and I just hope that when I do finally sit down and focus, that I end up writing something so brilliant that Clint Eastwood decides he wants to turn it into his next masterpiece and I can retire early and just write forever.

While this is a dream, I’m quite sure it will remain a dream and not become a reality. In the meantime, I’ve got forty pages–that’s it just forty sitting next to me that need to revised by Monday.

It’s going to be a long night.

I’m Back!

I know, I know. I’m a terrible person. I haven’t written in ages and I would understand if you all stopped reading because my posting has been inconsistent. I blame this inconsistency on the current lack of structure in my life. I’m not good at life when I have nowhere to be. I slack off on everything, my writing, my workouts, my diet, and anything else that it’s important.

This however will change soon. I have been looking for a teaching job since I moved to this new city and have finally landed one. While I know I’m more than qualified to teach, the competition here is stiff. Believe it or not, I’m currently living in a city with an over abundance of teachers. The counties and state are at a hiring freeze, so it’s a miracle (Thanks St. Joe for looking out for me) that I got this job and was hired laterally. My whole life my family, all of whom are teachers, has told me that there is security in teaching. Not so much. I’ve learned there isn’t security in any field.

That being said, I can’t wait. I didn’t think I’d miss teaching as much as I do. My fall semester classes ended early December and I haven’t taught a thing since then. The job I will start on Monday is a high school job. I’ll be teaching American Literature to honors juniors. I’ve been working on the syllabus (I finally finished it, and need to type it up) and have now planned every class including homework, tests, projects, and presentations until the last day school. I’m a psycho like that. I hate starting a teaching job and not knowing the direction and arc of the course.

As I worked on this syllabus I was shocked at how much I loved American literature. My first high school teaching job was British literature and I was sure nothing could ever top the great Brits! I might be wrong. It could also be that I’m such a book nerd that the places the writers are from has nothing to do with it. It’s just that I love good writing.

So, readers. Faithful and not so faithful you can expect more posts from now on. I promise. Pinky promise, even.

I face a great challenge. My thesis revision is not complete, though it is coming along (more on that soon). I’m set to graduate in August and I’ve decided to start another master’s degree so I can get a professional teaching license in this state as a back up. I hope I won’t have to teach high school for long, although I’d rather teach high school than not teach at all.

God-willing I’ll find a professor or instructor position for the fall. I’ve noticed the colleges and universities in the area have started to post some.

For past three months I’ve had no excuses to work on my thesis and have still not spent enough time on it, now I’ll have excuses but will have to fight the urge to procrastinate and just do it. That is another reason I did hardcore planning on my syllabus because I think it will save me so much time in the end. Still, I’m a bit nervous about trying to do too much. I need to finish my thesis, graduate, apply to another graduate school, and apply for instructor positions. And for those of you who are still on the job hunt, or have recently gone off the job hunt you know that finding a job is a full-time job. Though I’m slightly ashamed to admit this, there were days when I considered job giving up. It can really weigh you down when you got to interview after interview or send out application after application and get nothing back. There were days when I felt truly defeated and I’m not going to lie, I’m nervous about what’s going to happen after this job ends because it might not be an available teaching job for the fall, which could be a good thing because it will force me to try even harder to get a job at a university, but having job security makes sleeping a lot easier.

If you’re out there looking and looking do NOT quit. I can say it because, I thought about just being a starving writer. The thing is, I don’t do starving.

Hysterical Appreciation

A month ago I turned my thesis rough draft in. I busted my ass to get it done in time and the last few days I spent working on it I was convinced completing the rough draft of this novel would never happen.

It did.

I was surprised that I did it, having under estimated myself, something I do too often and is a result of my destructively low self-esteem. Seeing the manuscript printed and ready to be mailed to my professor was pretty cool. A stack of papers, half a ream of paper…whoa. The work I had done, had me on track to graduate in Spring.

I neglected to think that my thesis chair would ask me to push back my graduation, so after a failed job interview (yes, I’m still unemployed–this economy is so terrible–Great Recession, try Depression) I received an email from my chair telling me my thesis wasn’t ready for a spring graduation. My chair was kind enough to acknowledge that informing over email was harsh, but I was scheduled for a visit the following week. I’m relieved my professor told me over email because I read the email and in my already emotional state, I was hysterical. I cried and cried and cried.

I was failure. A big fat failure.

Well, after my breakdown I drove to my boyfriend’s (this seems like a luxury since for the past four years I was only able to call him, now if I get upset he gives me a hug instead of kind words over the phone miles away from each other). He helped me realize that now my thesis would be even better than if I were to graduate in Spring. I’d have three more months to make it perfect, to make it something I will be proud of.

Having a thesis I love is something very important to me. My chair knew this from the get go. My chair gives great criticism and holds me to the highest standards. This is initially why I asked this professor to be my chair. During our meeting my chair said, “It’s already good, I just want to see you take it to the next level.” That felt good. I should mention my chair doesn’t give complements out willy nilly.

I now have new deadlines. The program I’m enrolled requires M.F.A.’s to turn in a completed rough draft at the beginning of the semester they are going to graduate. Since I anticipated a spring graduation I turned my thesis in this January. Now that I’m graduating in summer my “rough draft” is due at the end of May or beginning of June. The final version is due in July and the defense is at the end of July and graduation is in August.

While this seems like a ton of time, it isn’t. Before I know it will be May and I’ll be turning it another “rough draft” which I’m hoping needs minimal revisions.

My chair was very encouraging during our meeting, pointing out my growth as a writer and easing my worries about certain aspects of my novel. Since the general concept of my novel has the potential to be cliché, I was worried this might happen, I was assured it had not.

I left my meeting almost relieved that I would have more time to write a thesis that I can be proud of and can hopefully get published. 

I have a friend from grad school who had the same thing happen to her. She turned in her rough draft and her chair advised her to push back her graduation to summer. She wrote a collection of poems for her thesis. When I was venting to her about my disappointment she told me how the same thing had happened to her. She then told me that every poem in her thesis has been published and one of her poems won a prestigious award. Hearing this made me feel better.

While my goal is to produce the best thesis possible, it would be pretty cool to have written a book that can be picked up at Barnes and Noble.