30 November 2011

Dr. P

I did it, you guys. I’m Dr. P! And I am so, so tired.

When I last let you guys in on the dissertation progress, we were here:

But that’s just the can-do pretty face I put on for you guys, my “NO REALLY I HAVE IT TOGETHER” expression, reasoning that if I could fool you, I could fool myself! Honestly? I was here.

The dissertation itself was miserable to draft, because writing a single sentence could take thirty minutes to fact-check it. And then I would need background reading to make sure I understood the fact-checking reading and, yes, I will admit that I paid Wikipedia a visit once or twice to understand the background reading for the fact-checking reading. Next sentence: repeat!

Then came the editing, which was only slightly less miserable than drafting. I was fortunate that I didn’t have to edit it by myself though, and that my mentor helped, but that turned out to be a mixed blessing. In that photo is one page of my dissertation after he read it, in which practically every word has been edited. Now, not every page was like that, and don’t get me wrong, I’m so glad that he put the effort into helping me produce a good dissertation. He gave excellent editorial advice and made sure my arguments were sound and helped so much but you guys. SO MUCH EDITING.

The photo below sums up how I felt for a month, drafting and editing, drafting and editing. Although really, even that’s a misrepresentation. Most of the time I didn’t even get wine because I couldn’t spare the brainpower.

After the editing came the printing. Tree-hugging hippies, look away. I had to provide a hard copy of my dissertation to each of my four committee members.

I don’t even want to tell you about how I had to finagle the word processor to format my citations properly or insert my figures correctly or number the pages because that would require thinking about it again, and I have shoved those memories into the PTSD part of my brain.

Some stats about each of those paperweights pictured up there:
pages in the whole document: 249
multi-part figures: 39
words in main text: 43,827
paragraphs in main text: 1,703
references cited: 337

So, yeah. It’s a beast. In retrospect I have no idea how I kept the blog going over the last few months. I mean, I know I talk a lot, but you’d think all my words were used up, right?

Anyway, I turned in those suckers on the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving. And then... didn’t know what to do with myself. I paced around a bit, maybe? Stared at the wall? Suddenly noticed I’d left an random unfinished project sitting in front of the fireplace for weeks because it was apparently invisible to my one-track mind? It was very weird to not work on the dissertation after doing practically nothing BUT work on it for weeks. A relief, yes. But weird.

I spent the week in between the dissertation due date and the defense feeling anxious. Most of the anxiety was due to irrelevant, minor car trouble. The rest of the time I was anxious about the fact that I wasn’t overly concerned about my upcoming defense, probably because I was channeling all my stress into my car. Anxiety over not being anxious enough: that likely tells you everything you need to know about me.

Finally, after the week of misplaced anxiety: the formal defense. But as the day approached, I started to receive unsolicited words of encouragement. While visiting family briefly over Thanksgiving, they wished me luck and sent presents to open later. Friends started to send words of support and excitement for me. And on the day of the defense? Not only were my parents and Mr. P there, but one of my darling friends drove three hours in snowy weather to surprise me for my talk. By the time my mentor introduced me with the most generous and flattering words I think I’ve ever heard spoken about me – not just in public, but ever – I was downright overwhelmed with support. It was a very happy place to be.

The public talk was... good. I got really nice feedback, but I always feel like there is room for improvement. By the defense part I was brain-dead and I know I could have done better, but that didn’t matter. They decided I could be Dr. P.


The banner and slideshow my labmates made for the reception

My mom telling me that she can finally stop irrationally worrying that I’ll quit graduate school

Flowers from our Developmental Biology program. It’s a classy touch.

A champagne toast from my boss

The cake, which has a worm on it. Because I, uh, really do work on worms. And I am too exhausted to even explain to you why that makes sense.

Celebratory dinner at a favorite local restaurant

And a guy who is probably happy to get a nice, non-crazy wife back.

Dr. P, you guys. Finally.


Christal said...

Thank you so much for documenting this so well! I almost felt like I was there! Ok, not at all, and it's still killing, just like it killed me for Michelle, and Maria, and Christina...so on and so forth. I am so very happy for you and this huge accomplishment! I hope you are taking the rest of the week off (at least!) What restaurant did you go to? You look pretty in your Dr. P. outfit! And I just love that your dear friend made the trip! I want to hear in detail what your boss said (email is acceptable format). And now you can plan your vacation to CT! :-) Congrats, friend, I am insanely happy for you! (sorry, this was an awkwardly long comment.)

Rachel C said...

Congrats, Sarah! Or should that be, Congrats, Dr. P!

Random memory - yours was the only science related Scholars project that I ever understood at Forum, so I have no doubt that your presentation was amazing. :-)

Congrats again.

Shanna said...

I am SO PROUD OF YOU!!! Congrats on this major accomplishment...I never doubted that you would finish well.