04 October 2011

And So It Continues

I have every intention of making this a short entry. But I have had that same intention before, and things haven’t gone to plan. We’ll see how things go this evening.

I’m still feeling panicky and anxious. I can’t say that I’m terribly surprised, though I am a little disappointed that those feelings didn’t magically disappear over night. I don’t know how these things go for everyone else, but for me, negative feelings don’t normally hit me all of a sudden (though that can happen). They usually build up over a period of time. It also usually takes a while for them to go away. Anyway, I continue to work through this. I was every bit as productive today as I have been on every previous day, if not more so. It’s just more taxing and mentally exhausting.

It’s been a pretty long day. It’s now close to 20:00 local time, and I’m still working and reflecting. I also plan to read after I finish this entry, if I’m feeling up to it.

I want to spend the rest of this entry reflecting on what I mean by a long day. For starters, I have not been working non-stop since I woke up this morning (around 07:00). If there are people out there who can log such long hours, I’m not one of them. Yet I can remember days when I easily put in more than twelve hours of solid work. This was pretty common when I was still taking courses. I had days where I was busy from the time I woke up until 21:00. Like most other undergraduates and graduates, there were times when I pulled all-nighters, because there weren’t enough hours in the day for me to prepare lessons, teach, grade, read for courses, write responses to the readings, not to mention commuting (even though I live close to campus, traffic can be abysmal), choking down meals, and all the regular stuff that is part of anyone’s day. I can remember walking into a class my dissertation director was teaching (she was also my MA thesis director), having only slept for about forty five minutes the night before. I apparently looked as tired as I felt, because she asked me if I had gotten any sleep. To which I responded, ‘Not much’. This was a perfectly normal response, and my dissertation director responded in a perfectly normal way.

Somewhere along the way I lost the desire to spend my days this way. Probably about the time I finished coursework. It’s not that I’m not capable of logging twelve hours or more a day on a regular basis. I’m creeping up on that number again as I get more involved with my dissertation. But working that kind of day over an extended period of time brings me no joy. I can already tell that I’m a bit agitated at the fact that I’m usually finished for the day by now. And I think it’s very easy for writing a dissertation to become a chore rather than a journey towards self‑enlightenment when we focus more on how much we think we need to do each day rather than on what we accomplished each day.

I also think a bit of perspective is needed at times like this. I’m not going to write that my dissertation isn’t important to me, because it is. I wouldn’t be pushing myself each day to make progress if it didn’t matter to me. But I think, given the way the doctoral system is set up, that the only person my dissertation is truly important to is me. This isn’t a knock on the system either, though I will add that I think the system is far from perfect. I just think that what this body of work I am producing symbolizes has much greater value to me than it does to the scholars in my discipline. When professional scholars who happen to be interested in the things I am interested in conduct their research, they’re not going to look at my dissertation first, if they look at it at all. They’re going to look at published works from other professionals. This tendency to ignore graduate work even exists among graduate students. I’ve been rather inconsistent about it myself. At times I have read dissertations and even masters theses. At other times I have felt that there was enough professional work out there that I could probably ignore doctoral student’s work.

I feel like I could keep going with this entry, but I promised myself I would keep it ‘short’. And it is short to the extent that I’ve only spent about twenty minutes writing it. I’ll leave off on this note and try to keep my justification to a minimum (for I think there is always some amount of justification behind our actions and inactions, after the fact). I don’t feel like doing anything else tonight, so I’m not going to read after all.

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