Crisis, then renewal

So it's no secret that my dissertation is creeeeeeeeping along. I can blame this only partly on the undeniably loud ticking of my biological clock that beckoned me into parenthood. The rest, I blame on my own inertia, which has always been something of a problem for me. Lack of motivation. ADD. Desire to check email and blogs, watch TV, and knit when I have free moments, instead of burying my nose in a music score. Writing and defending a dissertation is not an easy undertaking, and so far, I don't think I've really risen to it.

I had a moment of crisis on Friday night that called a lot of things into question. I've been thinking for a while now, especially as I look at the work that my uncle Jeff is doing in Africa with Global Hope Network, "What in the world am I doing to make the world better?" I come up with "not a lot" every time I ask myself that question. Yes, I'm raising a child (and hopefully more someday), and I'm going into teaching, but I seriously doubt that even a great music theory instructor can do that much to improve global hunger and poverty, or cure disease, or bring a sense of hope where there is little. There are several women at my church, some with kids and some without, whose husbands make enough money that they don't have to have jobs, and instead they devote a large portion of their time to volunteer work. They're kind of this little community of action heroes, meeting for lunch and helping with each other's projects and figuring out how to carve out meaningful existences outside the traditional stay-at-home mom role or the full-time working woman role. They inspire me.

Academic pursuits are great fun. But I'm quite frightened of what will happen if I can't finish my degree or don't pass my defense, so I think that those fears, coupled with this "I want to do more" thing, made me think that perhaps I should just throw in the towel now and get on with changing my life.

Of course, I gave it a little while, knowing that some sense of reason might hit me, and it did. Not that I'm not still wondering what more I can do, or how better I can raise my kid to understand how to change the world, but I'm finishing what I started. What I'll do with degree in hand is another question, though.

And thus begins my renewed period of activity on my dissertation. Please, don't ask me anymore to join Facebook or take on other random things. I need to buckle down and get this thing done. Pardon me if blogging takes a back seat to that for a little while, but I'll do what I can to come back here as often as it feels right. My free time just isn't going to be spent in quite the same way that it has been for the past year or so. And that's a Really Good Thing for me, for my sense of motivation, and for our family, so that we can get past graduate school and get on with figuring out the meaningful existence thing.




I hear ya, sista. I am staying at home with Eli right now, and I struggle with gathering up enough motivation and self-esteem to start practicing therapy again. I hope to jump on your bandwagon soon!
Many hugs to you. I just sent you an e-mail for continued thoughts that are much too long for a comment! :-)
While I think it is buried in some fine print, on some release form that every student signs upon acceptance to a graduate program, there is a statement that goes something like this:

"While in the long, arduous process of conceiving, gestating and birthing your great contribution to the storehouse of academic bulk, you will go through one or more periods of self-doubt, not caring if you ever finish it, thinking that it does not matter, and/or knowing it does not matter. It is acceptable as long as you continue to pay tuition and show some signs of progress towards perfection (Presbyterian schools only have that expression) or can coerce your committee into accepting the drivel you have written (state schools include that line) and none of your beneficiaries have collected on your life insurance.

So, think it not unique that you have these feelings, it prepares you for graduation when there is not one more academic stage in life, other than the noble role of teacher.

For when you were twelve years old, you started to hear that you have to finish High School to be a successful member of society. Once you did that, you were told that you had to go to college. When you finished that you were told it would be dangerous to allow you out in The World (Hugh Popenoe of U of Florida). College only prepares you for Graduate School. So you go. And get a Master's degree that prepares you to get a PhD. However, once you walk and hold in your hands that evidence that you can write, research, comment critically and survive slavery, no-one is empowered to tell you what to do next. Now you just get to do it.

So remember that all this is normal, and be sure to blog about it as others will need to see the proof of your passing this milestone of self-reflection."

Really, it was on one of those forms that is now in the bottom of a drawer or cardboard box. Don't waste a minute finding it, get to work on your research! ;)
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