making the best of tough situations

June 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

I hear the dishwasher running in the background. It is a beautiful summer afternoon here with a light summer breeze whispering through the poplar leaves outside my window. I am committed to writing on my dissertation this afternoon, the very same dissertation that has taken my life hostage for the last 3 years. I started my PhD studies in September, 2007, collecting data from day one. I had not written the research proposal, the research grant was awarded to my then-supervisor for a proposal he had written and submitted twice before it was funded. Data collection continued through to June, 2010. Since then I have written over 600,000 words in the forms of chapter outlines, annotated outlines, chapter drafts and numerous literature reviews. I have 36 versions of chapter 1. Nothing was good enough to get a pass from my now ex-supervisor. I checked the university website for graduate studies to learn the criteria for adequate supervision. According to my assessment, my ex-supervisor was deficient in 8 out of 14 criteria. Not a passing grade. At this point, with a new supervisor and a university keen to get me graduated, the dissertation is a millstone around my neck. I don’t hate the topic, and I don’t hate what I have learned from the research. I do hate that I was left with a sadistic ex-supervisor who had no qualms about continuing to hold me back even though the work I was producing was certainly adequate for the purpose. As I go through all my old files to patch together a complete project I am struck by the quality of my work. It is a shame to have to leave a lot of it out, but there is no dissertation on earth that can contain the volume of work that I have done on this thing. My task this afternoon is to cadge together my methodology chapter. I have written this chapter 3 times through, each version with a different focus as was the predilection of my ex-supervisor. When I look at my emotional condition at this stage of my life, how much I wish I had family support, real understanding of the academic torture that I have endured, it doesn’t surprise me that I am easily triggered by seemingly innocuous encounters. It really isn’t the fault of anyone in particular, just the crazy juxtaposition of history, people, situations, and work. Writing does feel good, even when it doesn’t necessarily make sense. Everyday the dishwasher gets loaded, turned on, and emptied. The need to do dishes will not change. Everyday I will face down this dissertation, pulling together fragments of past enthusiasms until it is finally finished. The need to do the dissertation will change. One day it will be over. And on that day I will sit on my front porch enjoying a summer breeze without this dissertation weighing down every waking moment. It will be done.

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