Dissertation Journey: Am I Feeling It or Failing It

So while the last approach was a bit more about understanding the conundrum of contemplating failure, this post is more a grab bag of thoughts and considerations about where I am.  Consider this all the things great and small that came across my mind in December and early January as I grappled with completing the qualifying paper.  Just to forewarn you--this is a bit of a rambling mix--but one I think worthy of sharing in the sense that it might help others normalize their experience while going through the qualifying paper process.

Running On Empty

I can still feel my heart beat a wee bit faster as I think about the weeks of trying to get it all done.  It felt like a constant pressure to get through the research and turn it into something coherent.  Even at my calmest moment, there was always something in my head ticking like a clock about the quickly approaching deadline.

Many times, I found myself doubtful about my ability to do this.  There was too much research, too little time, and I wasn't skillful enough to weave it together into a beautiful tapestry of knowledge.  Hell, I wasn't even ready to play connect the dots with it.  I would complete a few articles and my doubt demon would summon forth to remind me of how inconsequential it was to all the articles I couldn't get to.  

Preparing for Rejecting 
I took a good amount of time preparing to fail the qualifying paper and have it rejected.  This meant that I would be delayed a year.  I spent time getting myself emotionally ready for it and guiding myself to think about how it would be beneficial for that to happen.  After all, if I was going to fail it, I needed to prepare myself and feel comfortable about the setback.  I knew it was not the end of the world but it would feel like rejection no matter what so I had to grab hold of things that would make the fall less severe.  I recognized that a break from Friday classes would be nice and that if I could take a few electives to flesh out my QP.  I knew also that once I had a draft it would be easier to work with than not having a draft. 

Thinking About Quitting
Of course, this preparing for rejection also got me into the mindset of just saying quit then and there and enjoy my vacation.  If I knew it was a foregone conclusion, I might as well enjoy myself.  As the days fell away and I didn't have a completed first draft yet, why scramble so hard.  Just relax and let the deadline whoosh on by.  

Feeling Exhausted
Physically, emotionally, mentally--my mind was spent throughout this.  Sure, I had conversations and I did mental and physical work but it felt very much on autopilot.  The drive, the energy, the enthusiasm felt so elusive and at times artificial to call up.  I can remember the days following the QP, I ended up doing some extra sleeping before my body just needed it.  

I gained about 15 pounds between October and early January.  I am, obviously, a stress eater.  I just took it all in and continued to use food as a carrot and stick or just to keep me satisfied in a way that I knew I wouldn't be able to get to given where I was (or rather wasn't) with my paper.  

Failing to be a Good Partner
I do my best to be a good partner.  Clearly, I'm available--a lot and during the QP process, I don't think I was able to be as good a partner as my partner was to me.  I wasn't mean but at times I was short or not mindful of the challenges and stress that my partner was under with her own school and work and with me.  

Questioning the Program
Being in this state also made me question the program, the process, and the validity of it.  These were not substantial thoughts and I knew them to be my own projections, but they did happen.  

There were some really good moments in the qualifying paper process.  As I sifted through and made sense of the material or wrote about it, my mind would make connections and leaps of understanding about what was happening.  These leaps would lead me to more smartly restructure paragraphs, sections, or the paper as a whole.  I increasingly recognized names (and there are a lot of names) and their respective research as they were cited and discussed in the literature--which mean I could more easily place the research that I was reading.  I also started to more easily spot problems or flaws with different pieces and understand where it fit within the larger puzzle.  Basically, I was feeling the flow of becoming well-versed in my subject matter.  And that, felt really good.

So that's a bit of a glimpse about where my mind was and how I was making sense of things as I went through those final weeks of the QP.  I don't know that there is any good way to go through the QP process.  It's messy and it's intense.  But often, we need that in order to push ourselves to a new level.  

Want to keep up with my PhD adventures?  Check out any of the links below:
  1. Acceptance...and acceptance
  2. Orientation
  3. Day 1
  4. Week 1
  5. First 2 Courses Completed
  6. First 2 Courses Finished
  7. Semester 2, Here We Go
  8. The Existential Crisis of the Week
  9. The Balancing Act
  10. Negotiating Privilege in Higher Education
  11. Zeroing in on Research
  12. Completing the Second Semester
  13. My Educational Autobiography
  14. So Starts the Third Semester
  15. My Educational Philosophy...for now
  16. PhD'ese
  17. And Sometimes, You Feel It
  18. Semester's Endgame
  19. Year 1, Officially Done
  20. Year 2, Week 1, Day 1
  21. Year 2, Week 1 Done! 
  22. 1/3 Complete!?!?
  23. Click...
  24. Day 1; Semester 5
  25. Share and Share Alike
  26. Mindful and Mind-Filled
  27. 5th Semester Down
  28. Day 1, Semester 9
  29. The Two Demons of My Doctorate
  30. When Senioritis Kicks In
  31. The Final Friday
Sub-series specifically about the dissertation:
  1. Dissertation Journal #1
  2. Dissertation Journal #2
  3. Dissertation Journal #3
  4. Dissertation Journal #4
  5. Dissertation Journal #5
  6. Dissertation Journal #6
  7. Dissertation Journal: QP Revised Edition

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