Saturday, August 12, 2006

There's No Place Like Home

What did Dorothy do when she got back to Kansas? When her yearning for home finally took her there, what happened next for her? Were the promises of that promised land fulfilled, or did she find herself right back where she'd started, looking at the horizon and calling for rainbows?

I'm finding myself, as previous posts attest, a bit at sea with the whole dissertation process. After four years of yearning for this moment, I find myself not at all sure what to do with each day. Part of this is just the challenge of breaking a dissertation into manageable bits. Though my proposal included a list of sources and a chapter outline, I laughed as I wrote it and promised myself that later, when there wasn't a looming deadline and impatient committee, I'd find out what I was really investigating. Now that time has come, and I find it more difficult than I'd anticipated to actually begin. It's as if I was standing at the starting line all this time, waiting for the gun to go off, and now that it has, I find myself frantically looking for my shoes.

I think the other component of this, though, is that for so long becoming a dissertator was the goal. The Land of ABD held so much promise that I made reaching it the journey's end. It's not that it didn't occur to me that the dissertation would be an absurd, challenging amount of work, or that I'd struggle with the research and the ideas. It's that it never occurred to me that being in this space would difficult in and of itself. I didn't know that I'd have to learn how to be a dissertator.

It was comforting to me, then, to read Ancrene Wiseass's August 9 post on making mental preparations for the dissertation process. Perhaps I didn't miss the dissertation equipment install on my first day as a graduate student after all. Perhaps learning how to mentally approach the dissertation is part of the process and I'm really doing work even while I feel like I'm spinning my wheels. The question of why I'm having a hard time is an important one, and answering it may be key to continuing to move forward.

As much as I'd like to believe that, upon waking in Kansas, Dorothy found herself full with the answers she's been seeking about what she needed in her life, I'm betting that rather sooner than later, she found herself wandering about, trying to learn how to bring the technicolors of Oz to her daily life. Once you've battled the wicked witch, feeding the pigs can't possibly have the same appeal. I imagine she must have struggled a bit without easy paths and clear friends and clearer enemies. Her days were just her days, and the work of understanding them was hers alone. There were no yellow brick roads to follow with certainty in Kansas, and try as I might, I'm not finding any in the Land of ABD, either.


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