checking in

21Oct10

So I’ve been working. Working a lot. I’m focused on finishing the dissertation, come hell or high water. I just wrote a chapter that I’m extremely happy with. It’s fab. It of course needs more work but I feel like it’s pretty damn close to the finish line. Certainly it’s closer than any of the other chapters.

I threw myself into that chapter and worked on it virtually nonstop for six weeks. And now that I’ve finished it (or at least put it aside), I’m back to my old dilemma. I know what chapter I’m going to work on next. I know what all needs to be done and when. But I just can’t get it together. I’m burned out. I’m exhausted. I’m lonely. And I’m pissed.

See, although I’m no longer in the crisis mode I was in last year and I no longer feel like I’m being attacked daily, the situation is still ongoing. That point was driven home to me a few weeks ago. So I’m still writing in a hostile situation and writing to please somebody who will remain convinced of my worthlessness as a scholar. I use my anger at the situation and at the department for abdicating their responsibility to defenseless graduate students to fuel my writing. But once I’ve brought a chapter in for a landing, all of those crippling feelings come flooding back into my newly void headspace. All the rage. All the frustration. All the sadness for the years of my life that were needlessly miserable. All the anger that my finishing will validate my department and various professors. All the anger that I will never get the credit I will deserve for finishing against all the odds: a complete lack of training in my field, a first year that was catastrophic intellectually, exams I should have failed, complete intellectual abandonment by my advisor et al, and the lies and attempts to kick me out of the program on baseless charges. I will never get the credit I will deserve for getting through all of those things without any family support (in fact at times family undermining) and without a partner. You know all those acknowledgments pages in which people say they couldn’t have done it without their amazing family (and then comes a list of ten or so people) and their amazingly supportive partner? Well I don’t get to thank myself in my acknowledgments for having the strength to put up with six years of utter crap and still come out with a PhD that people actively do not want to give me. All of that effort? Silenced.

And I know that that’s what’s going to happen. And it’s happened to me before. It’s an ongoing part of my life as the child of my parents, who both pulled variations of this theme, whereby my success confirms their worth as parents, despite the constant roadblocks they’ve placed in my way and that I had to go to untold emotional lengths to get past (and by get past, I mean to be able to function). So I’ve been there, I know how horrible it is, I really don’t want to do it again, but I know it’s coming.

And so that’s why I’m having difficulty working at the moment, even though I want to. I’ll snap out of it soon and then I’ll work feverishly. And then I’ll finish something and it’ll happen again. Fun.

(And yes, I know I’m speaking confidently about getting the PhD, even though I’m many months away from finishing a diss. But I’m the only person who believes I’m going to get the diss done–I think I’ve got some friends who aren’t convinced either but they won’t say anything–and if I start doubting it, then the forces that don’t want me to finish will win and that’s not happening.)

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3 Responses to “checking in”

  1. Many hugs FP – when you are done, you (and we) will all know the hard things you persevered through. And once you have your PhD in hand it won’t matter what they thought, because you can go on to do whatever you want with it, regardless of your advisor/prof’s approval.

  2. 2 The History Enthusiast

    I am sure that you can do this. The last months are always the hardest…for me it was like pulling teeth to just get two paragraphs per day.

  3. Exactly this:

    “And it’s happened to me before. It’s an ongoing part of my life as the child of my parents, who both pulled variations of this theme, whereby my success confirms their worth as parents, despite the constant roadblocks they’ve placed in my way and that I had to go to untold emotional lengths to get past (and by get past, I mean to be able to function).”

    I could have written this. And other parts of this, too. Someone told me yesterday that they ran into a mutual friend and that friend was surprised (and oh so pleased) to hear that I actually finished. Because yeah, that’s shocking. Of course it is.

    It’s exactly what enraged me about the dissertation process. And now that they’ve all sort of patted me on the head with a “see, writing the diss wasn’t so bad” they get to take credit for my success at some level. Not my parents this time, my department. The better I do, the more it helps their reputation.

    I have to let that go, though. Even if no one else realizes the truth about the situation, it is still the truth. It’s hard to hang onto that sometimes–that truth is truth no matter how many people tell lies–but it’s the case.


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