I have emerged from my final semester of coursework in tact! (And, as my other blog evidences, I am venturing back into the blogosphere, at least a bit! I found myself using fb more and more and the blog less and less… bummer… I’ve missed blogging.) One of my prof says to celebrate every milestone in a doctoral program and this is a BIG milestone. Shortly after I finished my grading responsibilities for the semester we headed to the Empty Nest, the houseboat owned and occupied by my mom’s long time best friend, Debbie and her husband Bruce. Bruce was out of town for the weekend and Debbie was buried in end of semester grading (she teaches at another University in town), but she decided she wouldn’t mind having some company. So from Friday until Tuesday morning we relaxed as much as possible on the boat. This is the boat on which Kevin and I honeymooned nearly 9 years ago. Ah… We got so much more sleep 9 years ago- the joys of parenthood. But I did read the better part of a cheesy novel (first time I’ve checked out a book from the leisure reading section of my University’s library) and Kev and I made some progress on the novel we’ve been reading together in bits and pieces since his birthday. And I took daily naps (or rests, anyhow). And I caught up on the other blog. Good stuff.
I remember, and I could read all about it here on this blog if I didn’t, the sheer exhilaration when I finished my first semester of coursework. This was heightened, perhaps, by the fact that I was then anticipating the birth of my first child, I was awaiting the imminent arrival of my sister for that purpose, and I had accomplished a major goal of getting it all done early so I would be ready for this baby. It felt amazing. I was giddy as I waited to pick up our local turkey for the Thanksgiving dinner that would follow later that week. I haven’t felt that feeling since, until maybe now. Something has dampened the joy at the end of every other semester- difficult interpersonal dynamics, an incomplete, and I don’t know what else- but this time… after I clicked send on that last paper, a full two days earlier than I intended to, JOY! Alleluia! That stage is DONE. And whereas I finished all my other coursework (undegrad, masters) sad and wishing for 8 more years, or 5 more years, or just more… I am ready to be done. Is there more I’d like to learn? Yup, loads. Would I rather learn it not in the context of graded coursework? Yup.
Since returning from the boat I’ve been taking it somewhat easy, mostly getting ready for the summer ahead, for which I planned before we left. I’ve been equipping my carrel (a very small, lockable room in the basement of the Divinity library) so to make it more habitable for the summer. I’ve covered the windows (to the library, no outside windows in this bunker) with tissue paper so to minimize distractions. I brought in my office chair from home. I inflated an exercise ball for a seating alternative and a stretching tool. I gathered all the readings I need for the first two weeks of studying into one place. I hung large post-it note paper on the wall for tracking key insights on the questions I’ll be working on for the first two weeks. I’ve copied those questions into notebooks- thinking that manual note taking might discipline me to take fewer notes… a must. Oh and I bought a helpful lamp and some other office supplies. I still need to organize the rest of the books in my carrel and scan a bunch of readings needed throughout the summer… that’s on deck for today. And I want to bring in some family pics and headache meds and a power strip… but, it is mostly equipped.
I have made an exam study plan that takes me from next Monday (May 17th) until early October when I take the exams and hand in my dissertation area paper. 6 days a week for 6 months this is what I’ll be doing. I have eighteen questions that I’ve written, 6 for each of the major exams I’m supposed to take. I think I’ll actually be asked to answer only two or three of them, but… we’re supposed to prepare more than we’ll be asked. I’ve divided these questions into 6 sets of 3 (1 question from each of the exams per set), trying to link questions with related content together when possible. I’ve made preliminary decisions about readings that would be most helpful for each question and copied the information from the exam reading list onto my plan document. My plan is to spend 2 weeks on reading for each set of questions, and to have a catch-up week every 5th week. I intend to work on my prep for these major exams from 9-3 Monday to Friday. From 6-9 Monday to Friday, I plan to work on my minor area exam prep. And Saturdays I intend to devote to my dissertation area exam prep (which is, unfortunately, going to involve a lot of German reading… Lord, have mercy! It has been a LONG time since I’ve worked on German.) This will be the rhythm (if it works) until early September, when I’ll start reviewing, making outlines of essays, and writing the dissertation area paper. In addition I plan to run every morning in the 5:00 hour, and do yoga at the gym in the evenings as often as possible. And hopefully I can have some quality time with Caroline in the afternoons and do some garden upkeep (we planted a garden again!) Sundays will be sabbath. They have to be. So this is what I am anticipating.
The reading I need to accomplish (or at least skim) in each 2 week period is un.be.liev.a.ble. But… earlier in the semester I tried to plan my summer and my anxiety went through the roof. The planning went much more quickly with the questions guiding me. This feels daunting, but… doable… I hope.
I’d love it if I could fight isolation this summer, but checking in here fairly regularly. We’ll see. Perhaps I can have a series “One thing I learned today…” Everyone keeps telling me that they were the smartest they ever were in the months leading up to and immediately following their comprehensive exams. Bring it on!
Thanks for your patience!