Another awful little morning ritual I’ve picked up is the inability to get out of bed in the morning. I won’t be asleep necessarily. I’ll just be laying in bed and staring at the alarm clock. I won’t decide to just turn off the alarms and sleep for a little longer–I will continue to torture myself with periodic alarms interrupting my aimlessly lying in in bed.
I have to get up on time actually. I have to go to the gig-which-assures-I-will-be-employed when I finish. Actually, I like this gig quite alot. I stumbled into it by accident, and love (that actually deserves a LOVE in caps and italics) the company and the people, and for the most part I like what I do. And even things I don’t like as much, I’m learning how to do better, and so I feel more proficient and like doing it more (more on all this another time). So, I’m not unhappy to get up and go there. But I am unhappy to get up and know that eventually I will have to work on the dissertation again.
I had avoided working on the dissertation for a few days. I was exhausted, strung out, and really pissed off. So, I decided to take a few days away, which resulted in a lovely weekend with the husband, going back to yoga, and starting up this blog. My psychological undercurrents were pretty fucked up, to say the least, but it really helped to step away a bit. Yesterday when I began thinking about working on the dissertation I began to cry. I kept crying when I opened the chapter and started revising it. I stopped crying for a bit when I took a break to eat dinner and watch some basketball with the husband. I cried again when I worked on it after dinner and left to go cry in the shower awhile. I cried in bed while trying to get to sleep. My eyes still hurt today.
Is this how it’s going to go? Will I spend my next several months looking at this dissertation through tears? Really????
I keep trying to remember that this is all temporary. Eventually it will pass, and I will just look back on it as memory. But the sheer misery of it now is so overwhelming that it is hard to see beyond it. Particularly through tears.
The lunacy of the situation is out of control. If I had a job where a boss made me feel like an inadequate failure, and where I was driven to tears whenever I worked on it, and that made me hate getting out of bed in the morning, I would be looking for a job so fast my own head would spin. And probably a therapist. And yet, I persist in trying to finish this thing.
In some ways, continuing to rehearse the ways in which grad school makes me feel like crap and how I want to quit is rather pointless. I made the decision to leave academia a few years ago, but decided to go ahead and finish the dissertation because I was “so close.” The idea of being so close to finishing when you’re ABD is hilarious, as tossing another few years into the life sucker is an enormous commitment. I can’t believe I looked at that a few years ago, and thought–oh, I can polish off a dissertation, no problem.
My difficulty in finishing the dissertation now is bringing up all sorts of issues that had lain dormant since my decision to leave academia a few years back. At that time, I was incredibly upset, very pissed off, and ready to walk away. I decided to finish the dissertation so it wouldn’t haunt me; thinking that I could unproblematically get it done so that way I could free myself from ever thinking about it again.
But I can’t dismiss the profound ramification it has had on my life. My husband recently said that I will have to spend some time recovering from the dissertation after I finish it. I visualize this as an old-fashioned convalescence where I travel to a seaside town in order to sit in a chair by the water with a blanket over my knees. Apparently a dissertation is psychological consumption.
I think I’ve realized that I can’t just finish it and forget it. The problematics at the end have stirred up problems I wanted to conveniently ignore and cannot. Its effect on my life has been too pervasive, too pernicious to brush under the rug with a completed dissertation. I thought that finishing it would kill it, so I could be free. But now I’m not sure. It is more like a sleeping beast that could rouse itself at any minute to torment you. Here at the end, I realize simply finishing it to forget it, if I even can, might not be enough.
When I first decided to leave, I felt like I was alone, and that my decision to leave academia but finish the dissertation was just about me. But it isn’t really. I’m part of a much larger group of people experiencing the same misery, the same confusion, the same anger over buying into a life that would only chew them up and spit them out. Staying silent and alone pretends like it is some isolated problem that is more about me than about the institution. There was a time I believed that was true. I don’t anymore.