Monday, May 18, 2009

June Scientiae: Moving Forward

Alice and ScienceWoman over at ScienceWomen are hosting the June Scientiae, and they have chosen a wonderful topic:
We're all at different stages of our journeys, but something we have in common is that we are all MOVING FORWARD, so that's the theme of this Scientiae edition.

How are you moving forward in life?
They posted a few well known sayings to motivate and inspire us, such as "When life hands you lemons, turn them into lemonade," and "Life is just a bowl of cherries". These are wonderfully positive, and I love lemonade and cherries (I even have a tattoo of one of these - I'll leave it as an activity for the reader to guess which one).

For me though, the quote that really describes my life at this moment is "The odds are six to five that the light in the end of the tunnel is the headlight of an oncoming train" (Paul Dickson).

Okay - this isn't as happy and positive as the first two, but it's one of my favorites. To me, it basically means to be prepared or you'll get your ass handed to you on a platter. Since I'm currently writing my thesis and will be defending in just over two months, I feel this is rather relevant to my experiences.

Since the beginning of May, I have found that life has been going in fast-forward. Writing my thesis was taking less time than I thought, so my defense date was moved up to July. This, in a sense, took two months off my time to prepare, as I was initially planning to defend in mid-September.

At first it was scary - I have to get everything done two months earlier? - but then I realized that those two months would not make me any more prepared. In fact, it probably would be worse for me if I had to sit around, twiddling my thumbs for two more months; I would have been a stress-case during our three-week trip in August!

So, here I am, just about two months from my PhD defense - a day that I seriously thought would never happen. Throughout the past four years I have contemplated dropping out too many times to count. And honestly, the only reason why I am here now is because of the embarrassment I would have felt if I didn't finish.

But, now that I am nearing the end, I find I am coming out of the fog (as many PhDs said would happen). Things are starting to make sense, I'm starting to feel more confident in my knowledge and abilities, and I feel ready to finish this stage of my academic life.

Of course, I'm still incredibly nervous about my defense, and the thought of "FAIL" does pop into my head from time to time (okay, a lot). A fantastic technique to deal with these negative thoughts that my therapist taught me is this: If someone were to give me 1 million dollars if I could correctly guess if I were to pass or fail my defense, what would my answer be? At that point, logic and past-experience would lead me to say that I will pass. Interesting, no?

Another interesting thing that has come out of this is that I...gasp!...actually have been enjoying my time at work! After reading this article, I am starting to realize that my feelings of frustration and stupidity are not only common, but an important part of science research. I am now considering how I can work research, teaching, and outreach into the next stage of my career.

As my defense date grows closer, my time here grows shorter. DH is now actively searching for jobs, we will move, I will find a job (maybe two?) and we will start a family. It is an exciting time - the end of one amazing journey and the beginning of another.