Friday, December 22, 2006

Where to begin?

Perhaps hell isn't the exact verbage to describe the dissertation process. It's more like an extremely protracted pregnancy and labor that no one who has not been similarly embroiled can comprehend. Like pregnancy and childbirth too, one takes on a new language that only those "in the club" understand. We discuss institutional review boards, statistical computations, "THE LITERATURE" and a little thing we affectionately refer to as "p." People who have been in doctoral study have their own dissertation horror stories that they are all too willing to share with the novitiate - not unlike veteran mothers' pregnancy and labor horror stories. I guess this blog is to share mine. Just be happy I'm not sharing gory pregnancy details, although I'm not sure which is worse.

I can't even talk about my research or the process because no one in my immediate world understand. No one in my family has ever gone this far in the education system so no one in my world has ever been "with dissertation." They don't understand that it is all-consuming - not unlike a newborn, and requires near constant tending. All they want to know is when I'll be finished. Funny. I recently submitted the first draft of my proposal to my chair and spent a good half hour explaining the remaining steps to my husband. Somehow he failed to grasp that the first draft of the proposal was not the end of the ordeal. A few days later I received a scholarship for the coming semester (don't quite know how that happened, but I am grateful), and his response was, "Another semester!?" (<-- italicize that.) Sigh.

Whoever had the bright idea of conducting a major piece of research by committee was clearly a sadist. As if getting 5 academics to agree on anything is even possible, much less probable (3,265,422,589 : 1 and falling). Jeez. My first associate dean (AD) had more health problems than anyone I've known on this side of the dirt. She was constantly on leave for surgery: gall bladder surgery, thyroid surgery, knee surgery, another hysterectomy, the list goes on & on. To top that off, during the rare times she was available, regardless of what dissertation concept idea I floated past her, her response was, "Well, that's clearly anecdotal..." Duh - the wheel was anecdotal at one time too, dumbass. Rumor has it she thinks anyone with a southern drawl is a dolt, regardless of their IQ scores. So, I switched to another AD who was available, committed to getting me graduated and understood that there is no "perfect" piece of research. We got along great as colleagues and friends but he recently took a much better job elsewhere. Can't blame him. The school automatically assigned me to the person who is in charge of the health psychology concentration. I don't like the guy. I don't think he is aware, but health psychology is not geriatric neuropsychology despite how he thinks it might fit under his umbrella. Besides that he has known issues with my second faculty reader (who is a neuropsychologist) and he's a flagrant chest-starer. I don't have time, money or patience for bullshit at this point, so I requested someone else. Sure, the new guy's specialization is in mass crisis (think 9-11 & Katrina - he was there) but at least he will be willing to learn something new and not try to force fit it into his paradigm.

My first dissertation committee chairperson had me chasing down a different rabbit hole every week in search of a viable topic. I felt like Alice in Fuckedupland. After a year of that, and a small fortune in association fees, book purchases and the like, I fired him out of sheer frustration. He didn't even realize I'd fired him until he hadn't heard from me in over 2 months. My new chair & I sat down together and formed a plan over gyros in an afternoon. It's all about picking a committee that is as focused on getting you PhinisheD as you are.

My mother's day present this year was to be able to take an extended leave from (read: quit) my job to focus on my dissertation. I had stayed on at my internship site after internship was over to do psychological assessments for Social Security. My husband had lost his job, so I was working to bring in extra money so we could stay afloat but the homework that acompanies such a job was consuming any time I had for anything else - including my dissertation. So he put his executive skills to work and figured out that I was spending more on tuition than I was making while not making any progress on my research. Even though he hadn't had a job in nearly a year & 1/2, he told me to quit my job and get finished already. Talk about a leap of faith. He landed another job about 6 weeks after my last day on the job. My teenage daughter remarked yesterday that I am much more relaxed & happy and don't seem near as tired as when I was working there.

Fast forward to a week ago. My chair blessed the first draft of my proposal with only one small clarification & told me to go ahead and take care of that & send it on to my new associate dean (who promptly told me to hurry up and wait because of the holidays & an upcoming major conference - I'm okay with that) and the statistics consultant (who was very thorough in her feedback and requested what I perceive as minimal revisions & clarifications). I submitted the paperwork to the hospital to conduct the research and they're putting me through the expedited review process since I want to use archival data. So it's more hurry up & wait. It's the holidays though so I'm okay with that. I'll think about it next week after I put the giant green pagan symbol & all the ornaments back in the attic.

I think I'll snuggle up on the sofa with my daughter, have some Earl Grey, watch a movie & just chill for the rest of the morning before I run the final holidayesque errands this afternoon. Come to think of it, that's the best idea I've had all day.

Happy Global Orgasm Day!

Jill off for peace...

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