Sunday, October 21, 2012

Betwixt and between

I've submitted my thesis and have now entered into this surreal space of not knowing what I am. I no longer fit the box. I'm not a PhD student as evidenced by the behaviours of study and writing, and i dont have the credential of PhD.

It is now a week since my PhD submission and yesterday was the first day i did not reopen the it. (This is sounding so much like i have an addiction problem. My name is ailsa and I'm a recovering PhD student...its been two days since i last ...)

8 days before submitting and i wanted to clarify and strengthen part of 'the argument' as to how my thesis had got me to where we had gotten.
(Some will roll their eyes at this but the thesis really did have control of me as much as i had control of it.) My daughter had an essay due in the next day so we have this parallel play type thing going on as we both type away...took me a day to write what i wanted, a page and a half many several times over till i had it clear, and then i lost it...ah such sweet sorrow...but writing it again took me 15 minutes and made one clear paragraph.
A week before submitting:
I was surprized by how calm I was, I kept expecting a mad rush and panic, but actually timing (self imposed deadline) was spot on.
I had met with a formatting person earlier who was cool, calm, collected and knew his stuff. Having booked his time I could move forward in final edits (this was after all the 3rd penultimate rendition!)

Then four days before submitting, still on top of everything, the to do list had no more to dos on it!
The formatting guy would work on fonts and layout, some proofing; there was little else I could do in the interim, i struggled not to fiddle with it

Then I remembered a little more i wanted to add...shouldnt be much bother, I'd warned the formatter, he was cool... so i opened the blackbox of a mobile phone to photograph its innards and prove reassembly was not a possibility... (even now I can see other potentials in this metaphor, but that will be another story for a post doc life).
And that led to a little bit more twiddling with words, that led to page numbering being off....

Still the following day a cool formatting guy... but i now had 2 days left.
A bit of too'ing and thro'ing to get the layout sorted,downloading a font that would be stable across pcs and macs suddenly returned me to the early days of cross platform stressors. In a multivocal account i did not realize how few fonts there were that remained stable. I wanted one that looked like script, and seemed for a brief moment in time i would get stuck with comic sans since bradley script didn't behave...nonetheless 24 hrs later, sorted. I had to settle for not using some pictures on a landscape layout as submitting a single pdf and each lanscape orientation split the document. There also remains one gremlin in the layout, a memory of a split simply would not go away, so with cut and pasting this gremlin
sits in the invisible space at the bottom of a page. And then i could work on yet another cleaning of the endnote library, its squeeky by now...
and wooops, the night before submission it comes back to me and its screwed. The crossover between my university rendition of endnote, and the more recent update used by formatter left double gaps where they shouldn't have been and kept inserting retrieved from despite a doi...also some deleted aspects on a few....something like 80 stuff ups.
I let the formatter guy know later that night but hadn't heard back from him till midday on the day it was due in..and then i needed to be somewhere else, funerals dont go on hold.
I spent 6hrs of the last day itemizing the probs, went to the funeral, an hour and a half later contacted formatting guy who said he fixed it, a 10 minute job.
I think i had expected a panic, and found one, it wasn't essential that i panic, no one would have known my self imposed deadline wasnt met, but i think it's part of my parting behaviours. I seemed to need the adrenaline rush.

I then spent 2 hours searching for more to panic over, the submission process seemed to require an extra form that had me searching internationally for advice regarding digital copyright...but having come to a conclusion on this, i handed in the thesis, and the form wasn't needed at this point- it gets submitted after marking, when the thesis is accepted/passed.

Its a bit of an anticlimax really. It's in...but its not over. I cant really relax, there's trepidation rather than excitement.
I go back looking at it...I have problems aith denial, questioning if its really over, did i hand in the right edition....yes. Did i reference an article i used in that last week, no. But it wasn't cited either. Wish i had...if I had...and I slip into bargaining- if the rest of this is ok, i will be forgiven? If it comes back with mnor corrections, I can fix it. But for now it's too late. And I am the only person who knows it is 99% complete in terms of what i wanted it to be.

And it's also a bit like having a sore tooth, sticking my tongue into it, biting down, sucking air across it, checking if it still hurts.

I've found two more in that very last bit of prose- one word is missing. And one of my references has a slash at the end of an url. No biggie. But the rate of return on polishing gets smaller and smaller for the hours invested, and so again, 99% pretty suffices. I rationalize with myself, intellectualize: tell myself stop looking.

Today I slept the day away, I felt like i could sleep for 6 weeks; writing a thesis is tiring.

And now I wait. One week down. Maybe 9 more to go? The university where I'm enrolled suggests its a 10 week turn around, but I know people (admittedly not this university) where it took a year to hear back. Meantime I wait. Betwixt and between. I dont quite fit in anymore with friends on the phd journey, I visit but I'm in a different space. And I dont quite want to start writing the post doc articles from a space of trepidation. I'm feeling like I've lost my voice, the power is now all out there.


  1. Do the publishing plan, rather than the actual articles. And start some new reading on a related but not the same topic. My thesis took a very long time to come back so I know it's not worth putting things on hold.... So also get to all that stuff you've put off.

  2. i have a week is epty, the week after is a writing retreat....But am still needing to find my voice. *sigh*

  3. Today is day 95 in purgatory; the space between heaven and hell.

    purgatory |ˈpərgəˌtôrē|
    noun ( pl. -ries)
    (in Roman Catholic doctrine) a place or state of suffering inhabited by the souls of sinners who are expiating their sins before going to heaven.
    • mental anguish or suffering : this was purgatory, worse than anything she'd faced in her life.

  4. limbo might be a better analogy, slightly less suffering, full of benign neglect
    limbo 1 |ˈlimbō|
    1 (also Limbo) (in some Christian beliefs) the supposed abode of the souls of unbaptized infants, and of the just who died before Christ's coming.
    2 an uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution; an intermediate state or condition : the fate of the Contras is now in limbo.
    • a state of neglect or oblivion : children left in an emotional limbo.