I spent the past year and a half of my life writing a dissertation. It is about 250 pages long and is filled with thrilling news from the land of Foucault and Etienne Wenger and other such folk. For a long time, I thought my dissertation sucked but I had to defend it a few weeks ago and so I re-read it to remind myself of what I had said and I realized that it didn’t suck. It’s not publication ready, no dissertation ever is, but I’m excited about what I found in my research.
Writing a dissertation is a strange thing. When I first set about the task, I was certain it would be easy because I am arrogant and academic-related things come easily to me and I assumed that this would be one more thing that came easily. I could not have been more wrong. Writing the dissertation was the second hardest thing I’ve ever done, as it should be. It was a miserable, torturous endeavor. I was overwhelmed by the futility of all, conducting an overly ambitious research project, tying practice to theory, writing something fewer than 20 people will probably ever read, knowing ultimately, it wouldn’t be what I wanted it to be, feeling like I was stating the obvious rather than contributing unique scholarship. There were times when I genuinely thought, well, if all else fails, I can move home and work for the family business. That literally became an option. I entertained elaborate fantasies of hanging out with my mother, running errands with her at Costco, sunning on the lanai. Those fantasies got me through the darkest days, of which there were many.