Thursday, 20 April 2017

Post 101: Why I'm Glad I Didn't Quit My Thesis!

I'm part of this excellent online thesis completion group run by Dr. Dora Farkas. It comprises both master's and PhD students from around the world: anyone who's struggling to finish their thesis, whatever the roadblock they are facing: crisis of confidence, lack of support, lack of motivation, procrastination, interpersonal conflicts with supervisors, what have you. It's a long list.

One question Dora recently asked us as a group is: Why didn't we quit our programs, especially when we constantly thought we would?

I thought that questions was a useful prompt, because for almost half my degree, I thought of quitting, and was varyingly closer and further away from making that happen.

Galiano Island monkey flower (I think!). :)
So, first I'll go through some of my main reasons for considering quitting (good to get those out there again):

1. It's hard to ask for help when you can't articulate what you're struggling with.
2. Interpersonal mismatch: I know that I likely wouldn't have done well with an over-zealous supervisor, but I also in some ways struggled more than I would have if I'd had a supervisor who checked in more often, or in the way I needed. My supervisor was very hands off, and at first the independence was powerful and I loved the trust that was placed in me, but in the middle of my degree, I struggled a lot with making decisions, uncertainty, and felt like I did a lot of my problem-solving alone (though this is linked to struggle #1). Not placing blame here: I recognize my own role in not asking for help, or getting to a productive place where I could ask for help. As usual, it was complicated.
3. Impostor syndrome: I've written several posts about this in the past, so I won't rehash it all here, but essentially, I've never felt more uncertain, and lacked more confidence, than during this degree, and I'm so glad that I've not let it stop me.

Hmm. I think those are at least the major reasons.

More Galiano Island succulents. Definitely some of my favs! 
So, reasons for why I didn't quit:

1. My outline of challenge #3 kind of got there already: I know that I'm a capable, somewhat intelligent person, who works hard. The lies that anxiety and impostor syndrome were telling me aren't true, much as I believed them for large portions of this degree. I didn't want them to get the better of me.
2. I wanted to prove to myself that I could persist and finish a multi-year project. In the end, I think this is the most difficult project I have ever undertaken, and again, in a few weeks when this wraps up, I will be more proud of myself than I already am, for sticking with it, and keeping at it, even when the going got really, really tough.
3. Finishing for finishing's sake! I like to finish projects (though I usually take on smaller ones), because I like that feeling of tying up loose ends.
4. The professional recognition: if I had quit, then I'd feel like I wasted a lot of my own time and money, as well as all the time and money that my participants, my supervisor and committee member, and my funders invested in me. I didn't want to let them down.
5. I didn't want to disappoint my parents and my family. This one is a tricky one, because I wasn't doing this degree for them, but I needed to finish it so I felt like I could continue to have their respect, as well as my own. In the end, I'm sure they would continue to love me either way, but it's better that I can face them having this finished, and being something that I am, in the end, proud of.

So, there are lots of reasons why I didn't quit, even when for so long I couldn't see the end of this degree. But you, like me, can do it, and surprise yourself, and finish up! :)

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Post 100: The Finish Line in Sight!

I have a defense date! Lovely way to start my one-hundredth thesis post!

And have had for a few weeks now. It was a SPRINT to get the paperwork in on time, and I think I was tired just from the two days of stress about that. My supervisor was waiting for my committee member to give the go-ahead, and for confirmation from an external. This Easter long weekend got in the way, because it takes up two days of the necessary 20 business days that need to be in place to give the external fair shakes at reading and reviewing my thesis, and coming up with questions for the defense. BUT -- thanks to the amazing grad admin my program has, who worked her magic, it worked out!

I defend on May 2, 2017.

Galiano Island succulents. :) 
A week ago I would have said, "I can't wait to defend." But now that the days are skipping by faster than I can keep track of, I know it'll be the kind of thing that comes waaaay too soon! It'll certainly be a challenge not to lose my nerve, because working full-time comes with the added challenge of being busy for the most productive hours of the day.
I'm also attending a conference mid-May, and going to visit my folks afterwards, so May will be quite packed, too.

More Galiano Island succulents. Love these guys!
My to-do list for the rest of April looks like this:

Thesis Prep (presentation, review, practice questions, print and re-read my thesis)
Conference Prep (presentation)
File my taxes
Keep on top of cooking and meal prep
Plan for my trip home
Stay healthy (get enough sleep; eat good food; get exercise)
Stay active (I've been biking to work lots, so that has been really good)
Go climbing 1x per week

And on the don't list:
Stay up too late
Eat chocolate
Eat out too much
Let my room get too messy

I think regularity of schedule will also become increasingly important so I don't let my anxiety get ahead of my. My nerves have already been more tense with my thesis defense getting closer.

Right near a bench, downtown Victoria. Love the colour!
But, I think what gives me courage is thinking of a celebration party later this summer, when I've had a bit of time to decompress from the stress of it all.

Longer-term plans include:
Publishing research contract articles (my own and my colleague's)
Publishing my thesis research (1 article)
Writing a few more posts on this blog, and then closing it down
Starting up a new writing project that I can work on through the rest of the year
Tackling my reading list (it's become quite long)

And, coming up with some trips for shared weekends with friends. I am so excited not to have the weight of this thesis on me anymore. The dream of that has been a big part of the motivation to finally finish. I wouldn't have been happy with myself if I had quit this program, despite feeling like it so many times.
Obligatory cherry blossoms. They are finally here! :)
2017 is already a good year.