A week ago today, I (successfully!) defended my dissertation. This means, final bits of paperwork pending, I’m ~*~officially~*~ a doctor.
I’ve found many of the steps along the path of grad school somewhat mystifying because you often don’t receive much explicit direction about what they’re supposed to be like, and this was true of the dissertation defense as well. I have often heard that a responsible adviser would not let you go into the defense if you weren’t ready, and knowing that my adviser is indeed a responsible person, hearing this was somewhat helpful. Though it did not completely remove the feelings of stress leading up to the defense. It was helpful to have support though, from people both near and far. I was at a conference a couple of weeks before I defended and got a lot of encouragement from folks there, which is always appreciated.
In practice, I found the defense itself to be very…relaxed? Like now that I’m all the way through everything and can look back at the entirety of my grad school career, I can say with absolute certainty that the most difficult part for me was candidacy exams. In particular, the oral part of the exam (even though my committee folks were great) was just not an enjoyable experience for me. And I think that approaching the defense, that earlier experience was taking up a lot of real estate in my head. But the defense wasn’t really like that at all. I did get a lot of questions, but I was much more certain about my responses at this point. I also got a lot of tips and suggestions for future development of the project, which was great. I already had a few ideas in mind, but now I have even more to work with going forward.
(I feel decently confident about this becoming a book one day, but we shall see. Stay tuned, eh?)
A lot of people have asked me what it feels like to be at this stage, and I know other folks have written about the highs and lows that they’ve experienced post-dissertation, so that’s definitely out there if people want to look for it. But for me, I just feel DONE. And I don’t mean that in a “I’m putting this whole town in my rearview” sort of way. I just mean that I feel appropriately finished with this particular stage. It has been really nice to be able to get more sleep though, haha. I’ll also add that it’s been cool to get kudos from other grad students, especially grad students of color. That pride matters a lot to me and helps to remind me of why I do what I do.
So what comes next? Well, I have a few more weeks left in the semester. So in the immediate future, I’m finishing up this semester’s teaching (I owe the blog a post or two about that as well), getting those last bits of paperwork done, prepping for graduation, and putting some things in motion for future life plans. Mostly, I’m just trying to relax a bit after being turned up to 11 for the past few years. So far, so good.