Monday, July 17, 2006

Fear of the Day

Today marks the first official day of my dissertation research.

I'm terrified. However, apparently I shouldn't be quite so frightened. It has, thus far, involved getting up, reading my blog roll, and making some coffee. Next I'll take the dog to the park and play soccer with him until the heat and humidity gets the best of both of us. (This will take approximately 15 minutes, as Bug is a herding dog of an alpine variety and I am a person of a slothful variety.)

Of course, in my own special way which I suspect is not that special, this is exactly what I'm finding terrifying. When it comes to my dissertation, I'm afraid that I can't do it, yes. But what seizes me in the middle night and makes me sweat is not the thought that I'm incapable. Instead, it's the thought that I can but won't. It's the thought that for years, I'll get up and walk the dog and look with guilt at the pile of papers accumulating in the corner or at the computer that sits accusingly on my desk. I'll meet friends for coffee in order to "work" and three weeks later discover that I've covered an hour's worth of ground. Just as bad, though of a completely different ilk, is the thought that I'll dig a tunnel into my subject and be mesmerized by the siren song of its complexity, going deeper and deeper and becoming drunk on its possibilities instead of turning them into realities.

There are many things to be afraid of here, and of all of them, I am the most terrifying. My advisor's disapproving voice, the question of "how's it going?" and the need to convince my peers I am not an idiot are high on the list of things that I should fear. But I sit atop that list, petting my dog, reading the latest Sarah Waters novel and whistling innocently through the guilt. Before I conquer my research, I'll have to conquer myself.


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