Friday, September 09, 2005

I'm fighting cancer! Ask me how!

Via Forbes:

Here's news that could ease worries about breast cancer: Women with higher levels of daily stress showed a lower risk of developing the disease, according to new research.

Yes, I'm seriously stressed out right now. I leave tomorrow to go back to Boston for my dissertation defense on Tuesday. I'm doing "chicken dance," as my husband would say, trying to get paperwork together, picking up my suit from the dry cleaners, cramming last-minute reading, making sure my students are taken care of for the week, trying to remember the word "casuistry," and so on.

On top of that, I'm fighting what's known in the land of perpetual graduate students (gradual students?) as "Impostor Syndrome." This syndrome is marked by a paranoia that the "Phony Police" will arrive at one's door to declare that the individual was only accepted to graduate school through a clerical error, and thereby all work to this point is null and void and by the way, you're a complete fraud, intellectually-speaking. It seems that far more women than men are plagued by this syndrome, for some reason. I'm just feeling a tsunami of self-doubt washing over me. I know well that my advisor wouldn't have arranged the defense were I not ready for it, but the little voice in the back of my head says "Yes, but you've slyly convinced him over the years that you're not a fraud, but you know deep down you don't really deserve a PhD."

This isn't at all a plea for pity and encouragement. I ranted last night to my husband "If one more random person tells me 'you'll be great!' I'm going to freak out! These people don't even know me or my work! How do they know I'll 'be great'?!" This rant came after the massage therapist I went to see yesterday, to whom I had to explain what a dissertation defense is, told me that I would 'do great!' at my defense. Yes, you can tell that the massage did wonders for my mood and stress levels.

I do know, in the pit of my stomach, that I will do fine at the defense. My advisor has already asked me where we should go for my congratulatory dinner. But I'm the most lazy perfectionist you'll meet. I expect perfection from myself, but am rarely willing to put in the effort that it requires. I want to really ace the defense, but I could have done a much better job in terms of really studying some of those secondary sources. It's my very last exam, ever, so maybe you can understand why I want to do very well and not just eke a pass.

Fortunately, my second reader has resurfaced. Apparently the barn burned down and then he fell down a well and Lassie couldn't find the sherrif to come rescue him...Or something.

Sorry for ranting. Had to be done.

PS: Forgot to mention that one of the members of the defense committee is a person to which I just submitted the letter of application for my dream job. She would be my immediate supervisor and is going to see me have a meltdown on Tuesday. It's anxi-tastic!


Blogger Masha said...

Good luck with everything!

1:23 PM  
Blogger Fredrik J├Ârgensen said...

Congratulations. You will defend soon. I really hope to do the same within a year. The same agonizing feelings the same resistance to write. Also uncertainty on what to do after my thesis is finished. Check out my blog -


7:34 AM  
Blogger Dorcasina said...

I didn't "do great" at my defense. I sucked. They asked me the wrong questions (a token member from outside my field hijacked the questioning and my committee was apparently too dumbstruck to shut him down). My committee sucked--they forgot what they had asked me, came late, and one of them at least had obviously not read my stuff. They wasted so much time that the last 15 minutes was a non-stop litany of criticism without any extenuating discussion. I cried silently through much of it, snuffled through the rest; it went on too long, and I sweated all over my suit (fortunately it was not my favorite "good luck" suit, and was black and absorbent). And you know what? It made not one whit of difference. I'm still done. I'm now a doctor. I earned it, if not prettily.

So there. I am your living proof that one can do exactly the opposite of "great" and survive to enjoy life as a PhD. I strongly suspect you will conduct yourself with more dignity and grace, but "even if you suck," as a friend says, "you will *still be a doctor* in X (insert timeline here)."
And I have a killer job that I love, and was a fantastic interviewer during my time on the market. Done is done! (I hope this makes you feel better, calmer; that's my sincere desire in sharing my horrific story--go ahead, laugh at me. Just call me "Dr." when you laugh....). So good luck, and try not to care too much about this one hurdle.
(P.S. This is why I am not a dissertation coach.)

6:26 PM  
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