I’m Still a Grad Student, But I’d Kind Of Like To Not Be One Forever

by Ashley on January 22, 2013

Today is the first day of the semester, and even here in the middle of my [cough, omg] seventh year of grad school, I find that exciting. It’s interesting the way you repeatedly fall in and out of love with the things you care about the most. It took being distracted with theology and academia to realize how much I love writing, and now I have finally gotten far enough from theology and academia to miss them.

There is no question I am asked more often than, “So, how much longer do you have in school?” People who care about the answer ask me this question. People who don’t care ask me this question. People who maybe care, but not enough to remember my answer, ask me this question every time they see me.  For a while I was annoyed by it. Then I was okay with it, but would jokingly answer, “Oh, I’ll probably be here forever.” For the last year, I’ve been answering cheerfully, “Just a couple more years.”

The truth is that it will take me as long as it takes me, because everything from this point on depends completely upon how hard and quickly I work.  2012 was not a year of great academic accomplishment, which is frustrating, but I was able to accept it when I realized that school had been my top priority for more than 20 years.  I’ll give myself that year of fun and travel and writing and getting lost in my feelings.  Now, though, now I’m ready to see this PhD to its end.

The great fear is that I will never finish my degree. Pretty reasonable, considering how many people quit ABD (all but dissertation) and I’m not even to the dissertation yet. The deal I have with myself is that I don’t have use my degree–it can be just a piece of paper to me–but I have to finish it! If for no other reason than to impress people! I’m kidding about the impressing people part, but not the rest. Whenever I express this to other people, it comes out sounding weird and defensive, though I don’t feel that way at all.  The value in the degree is what I have learned in the last seven years, what I still have to learn, and how those things have completely changed my life. I’m not sure that I will ever have a job that requires a PhD, and that is okay with me, because I have already gotten so much out of this experience.

The bottom line remains: I want to finish. It just hit me a couple days ago how quickly I could finish if I put all of my energy into it, and I think that is what I’m going to do. Whenever I have goals like this, I think of how maybe I’ll just be quiet about it and then tell the internet if I’m successful, but then I think of how much more exciting it will be to go big and public–fail or succeed.

It is my goal to finish my language exams, qualifying exams, and start my dissertation by the end of 2013.

That is kind of terrifying just to write. But if I accomplish nothing else this year and only make progress on my degree, I will be so happy. I realize that the grad school category on my blog has not received much attention in the last year, so please let me know if you have questions or would like me to write about anything (email).  I’d apologize in advance for not blogging as much as I study, but I always think it’s weird when people do that, and I will probably continue to blog too much.

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