Elusive horizons

I remember that when I was a kid learning to swim, sometimes I would swim to my Mom or Dad, and they would slowly back up in order to get me to go further.  It annoyed the hell out of me at the time, which is no doubt why I remember it now, but as an adult, I understand the motivation to try to help your child do more than they they believe they can.

Writing a dissertation is not like that.  I’ve thought of the swimming incident alot recently as I’ve tried to come to terms with my ever-moving dissertation deadlines.  I thought I would graduate in December, and then in May, and now it is August.  I’ve been “almost done” for almost a year.

Now, I keep telling myself I’m almost done, as do my friends and family, in attempts at encouragement and motivation.  But it feels hollow when my deadline keeps moving just out of my reach.  I will finish this summer, but it is hard to believe when I’ve thought I was so close so many times.  I feel like the girl who cried dissertation, and I’ve done it so many times that I no longer believe it when it is finally true (the haunting voice . . . is it? why this time?  how is it any different than before? . . . ).

It also means that I’ve consistently been living my life as if I’m about to finish.  I’ll only have to keep splitting my attention a little bit longer.  I will only have to keep working at night and on the evenings just a little bit longer.  But a little bit longer has stretched into almost a year, and so I’ve spent that time dividing and splitting my attention until I don’t have nearly enough to go around (like butter scraped over too much bread.  I need a holiday . .  a very long holiday . . . )

So I feel desperately behind in all the other areas of my life, while being unable to quite catch up to the dissertation deadlines.  When I finally swam long enough to reach my parent, I remember being proud and pleased at how far I had come, even if I remained a little irritated at the deception.  But when I finally do hit that last dissertation deadline, I don’t really expect to feel that same sort of accomplishment.  The always distant dissertation horizons make me feel consistently inadequate and perpetually behind.  When I finally do reach them, I can’t believe I will feel anything but a sense of relief that I have finally done what I should have accomplished months ago.  And then get to the pile of things that I’ve neglected over the past several years.

So how do I convince myself now that I really am almost done?  How do I find the energy to do the last bit of work to finally finish the damn thing when it feels like I’ve been purposelessly treading water for so long?  How do I reach for that horizon when it has slipped out of my grasp so many times?


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