Monday, July 18, 2011

giant paper v 2.0, feelings

I turned in my Giant Paper Thing v 2.0 (or my New Giant Paper Thing, whichever you prefer to call it) today. People keep congratulating me. The lady at the desk where I turned it in gave me a big smile and a "Good luck!"
And while I appreciate the support, really I do, I can't help but feel rather... meh about the whole situation.
The first time I turned in that paper I felt a flood of nervous relief-- I was done! Huge weight lifted! Let's go out for happy hour and celebrate! Annnnnd then it all blew up in my face.

I couldn't even begin to imagine how I might go about writing that paper ALL OVER AGAIN OMG. I met with my advisor, Peg, and basically just argued with her the whole time. She'd tell me I didn't have such and such requirement covered in my paper and I would point out that she had originally told me I didn't need it or that what I had written was fine. I left that meeting more angry and frustrated than when I went in, plus I still had no idea where to start as far as the rewrite went.

 Then, on a whim, I emailed the director of my program, Sandra, and asked if she might have time to work with me at all on my rewrite. So I ended up working only with Sandra and not Peg. Which, spoiler alert, turned out to be a very good idea.

Sometime in early June Sandra calls me into her office and tells me that she figured out that the big issue with my original paper was actually the topic I chose-- all of the other problems stemmed from this one. I put my head down on the table and cried. Once I collected myself Sandra and I came up with a new topic (basically refocusing my old one), found the new articles I would be critiquing, and figured out a rough schedule for my writing. "What else do you need?" Sandra asked me as we were wrapping up.
"Um. Could you just, uh, tell me I'm not a complete idiot for writing the paper the way I did it the first time?"
"Oh!" said Sandra, "No no! You're not. There's no way you could have known that the topic wouldn't work without doing all the work you did."

But you know who probably SHOULD HAVE KNOWN that? My advisor, Peg. Apparently I had been stuck trying to do a PhD level analysis of a difficult topic when I should have just scrapped the whole thing and focused on something more straightforward. I can't even imagine how it would have gone if I had been stuck working with her AGAIN on my rewrite. Actually, I can imagine it: lots of weeping.
"But, I mean, hasn't she advised people before?" Jenny asked me when I told her that story.
I paused for a moment as I thought it over. "You know what? No, actually. She usually advises PhD students."

So. I had to write the whole paper all over again. And it was annoying and it sucked but it wasn't as PAINFUL a process as I thought it would be. I guess it was a lot easier since I had some real guidance and, you know, someone who actually answered my questions with a bit more than just "Well that's probably fine...."

Last week I went to my parents' house since my sisters were still in town and even though the house was loud and zooey at times with all the kiddos it was preferable to writing alone in my apartment all week and slowly going stir crazy. Plus, the kids were really cute and my sister made sangria every evening. On Wednesday night I stayed up until 4 am writing, editing, and writing some more. I was trying to get a draft of the whole paper together and email it to Sandra, since she had only seen the various pieces of it separately. I sent the email off at 4, then I ate a little snack and hopped in bed. I probably fell asleep at about 5, but Bowie woke up at 6ish, and jumped around until I put him in another room. And then kids started making noise at about 7 so I guess what I'm trying to say is that I didn't get a great night of sleep. And then at 9 am Sandra calls and asks me if I can drive an hour and a half to come meet her so that we can go over a few last things before I write my final draft. "What time should I come?" I asked. "How about 10:30?" says Sandra. Oh! Awesome! So I'll leave RIGHT NOW!
I shuffled into the kitchen, feeling cranky and sad. I whimpered at my mom for a minute. "Go take a quick shower," she said. "You'll feel better."
I took my shower and gathered my things and as I was heading out the door my mom handed me a little bag. "I packed you a lunch." She had made me a sandwich and added several little bags of nibbley foods (carrot sticks, chips) so I could much away and not fall asleep on my drive. Aren't moms the best?

To make a long story, well, longer, I finished my paper and I turned it in today.

I know that I worked as hard as I could on it and that I had good people helping me and Sandra gave the green light for everything in the paper. If it doesn't pass this time, well, I guess that's that. I got so worked up and DEVASTATED before when I didn't pass that now it just seems like a waste of energy. No, not a waste of energy. But like I used up all my Strong Feelings about this and now I'm just down to... meh.
Of course I WANT to pass. I want my degree and I have worked my arse off on this firetrucking paper TWICE, FTLOG and haven't I suffered enough just let the dang thing pass!
But if it doesn't? Life will still go on. I'll still get a job. I'll still be content with my life. I'm not letting this one stupid paper control my happiness, that's for sure.

The Giant Paper Thing doesn't own me anymore.