Crossing a Finish Line

Alright folks,

I can tell you now, officially, with all certainty, that it’s over.

I’ve completed all coursework for my PhD.

I wish I could say that this momentous occasion feels as wonderful as it sounds, but truthfully I’m just exhausted.  I find that, without fail, the moment I stop running everything catches up with me.  All the stress, emotional turmoil, mental fatigue, physical challenges, everything I’ve been running from since mid-semester just slams right into me and belly-flops me into the ground.

It doesn’t help that coursework is widely regarded as the easiest portion of the PhD.  Which is not to say that it was easy.  If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you can attest to just a fraction of the politically-correct things I have to say about coursework.  Somehow, all that build-up of blood, sweat, and tears only makes this next step even more daunting.

So it does and doesn’t feel like an accomplishment to have survived this long.

I’m loving my couch hard core right now and I don’t have many deep thoughts to think.  I lieu of those, have a watch of the films that we made last weekend!

(The second film is a making-of documentary with a twist available here on Malarkey’s website.)

Happy summer, everyone!

Hey, Hey and Away we Go

Well, that was a long day.  Thursdays, it turns out, are going to be doozies for a while.

I begin with Directing (the class I TA).  After an hour and a half, I have approximately an hour to myself.  An hour, by the by, turns out to be just enough time that it makes you feel like you should be doing something, but not long enough to truly accomplish anything.  In other words, just long enough to make you anxious without the substance to do anything about this anxiety.  Today, my netbook proved angry at me for failing to turn it on more than once this summer.  It is a small bit of technology with a small brain and, for a cheap computer, rather advanced in years, so I can’t say that I blame it for wanting more attention; it figures that it would be today of all days that the darn thing decided to act up.

After this time, I whisk my way down to my own class (Theory).  Today was particularly

yup. My job.

exciting because it was the first class of my semester that I am actually taking.  This also meant that I got to meet the new crop of first years.

We had a veritable deluge of first years this year.  There are a lot of new faces, new voices, and new people about the department.  Since the department is very small, this means a lot of new things to get used to.  What it also means is that class sizes are larger.  This year, our classes cap out at seventeen.  Last year, my largest class had ten.  These seemingly similar numbers are in actuality vastly different in the context of discussion-based courses (especially those held in small seminar rooms).  It feels different; rather than a round-table, we feel like a motley hoard.  I’m going to be interested to see what this hoard shapes up to in terms of actual class discussion.

Unfortunately, my experience with larger classes is that the strong voices remain strong and the weak fade into the background.  Those who are aggressive fight, those who are more inclined to sit back and let thing wash over them have the security to do so.  This makes the conversation imbalanced and, often, repetitive.  I look forward to seeing how the professors (whom I have the utmost respect for) solve this particular teaching dilemma and help to retain order within the seminar room.

One of the most exciting things about meeting the first years is understanding the new classroom dynamic.  Who is going to speak with a loud voice?  What will be the timbre of that voice?  What opinions do these people have, how hard are they willing to fight, and how are they going to bring their vast array of different knowledges/experiences to the table?

One of my favorite parts about academia is the argument.  One of my colleagues made the apt observation just the other day that “it’s always a fight with you”.  Preparing for class, for me, is donning armor and honing my blade.  Having a roomful of new opponents is the most tantalizing thing I could be presented with.  I was hard pressed not to lick my lips with a knowing grin as we went around introducing ourselves; lots of new and different specialties.  Plenty of fodder.  Let the bloodbath begin.

I rounded out my day at rehearsal.  We’re really getting into the thick of things now and

I also nearly finished the sock I was working on while at rehearsal today!

we’re at that point where most folks are mostly off book.  I myself am off book (though, again, I do need to call “LINE!” particularly when I get caught up in something).  This is a weird place to be.  While the words are in your head, you haven’t quite gotten them in your body yet.  You reach and strive for them and, though some layering comes naturally, often the most intense moments are still evasive.  For me, today, tackling 3.2 proved extremely frustrating.  This is the first scene in which Rosalind speaks with Orlando at any length, and she does so under the guise of Ganymede.  It’s almost specifically in prose (a challenge in itself) and I spend the scene giving speeches which mostly consist of lists.  As if that weren’t enough, capturing some sense of genuine emotion is a roller coaster.  The scene begins, for me, giddy in love and playing around with Celia and Touchstone about Orlando’s bad poetry.  After being ribbed good and hard, I have a few moments with Celia before I have to don the guise of Ganymede and play real, serious, and convincing.

The rhetoric bounces wildly, the mood changes drastically, and I’m still trying to remember all the gosh darn lists that Rosalind uses.

Suffice to say I didn’t quite hit the emotion that we need to drive this scene tonight.  But I have hope.  My scene partners, luckily, are fantastic.  With some more work, I have confidence that we can get there.

…and now, officially, to tackle my real job: reading.  I think I was sorely mistaken when I held the belief that second year would be easier than first year.

Ah, well, back into the fray.

Year One: In the Books

As if 08:30 hours this Sunday morning past, I have done the inevitable, the wonderful, what I thought for some time was the highly improbable; I have finished year one.

Yes, ladies and gents, with one click of a button, that final final was sliding on home to the comfy cozy inbox of my professor and thus closing the book on half of my coursework (…though actually more than half because this year consisted of six classes and next year will consist of four, but let’s not quibble over the small bits, shall we?)

I would like to say that I sent the e-mail then promptly took my pants off, got cozy on the couch, and didn’t move for several days, but in reality I sent the e-mail, ran around my house for a while, drove for two hours, and worked a sixteen-hour day followed by a night of sleeping like the dead then went to a dramaturgy session where I spent two and a half hours sifting through Measure for Measure line by line and explicating every fine detail for my director… when I came home from that THEN I took my pants off, got cozy on the couch, and didn’t move for several hours.  Unfortunately, today can’t be as carefree as yesterday as I still have two professional deadlines nipping at my heels in addition to several personal projects which require my attention…

But I did buy myself ice cream last night.  And I do feel a certain sense of levity.  And I do feel utterly and completely accomplished.  Summer just tastes different – like watermelon and strawberries.  And, having finished my last final, I can safely say that it tastes like summer.

But before I get too far ahead of myself, let me take a moment to revel in what I actually just did.  Over the course of the past year I have: survived the initial shock of PhD work, thrived in the Tufts environment, learned more than I can possibly describe (and learned about a whole host of other things that I now need to learn), kept up with a rigorous course load, not driven myself crazy, met the demands and expectations of my wonderfully demanding professors, kept myself on track professionally and hit all the professional development goals I had realistically set for myself, maintained contact with the outside world (some sections of it more than others and at some moments more contact than others), not made an abject fool of myself in class (and if I did, I don’t know about it because ignorance on this front is bliss), come to grips with my job as a professional academic, stepped out into the wider world of academia at two large conferences with my shiny Tufts byline…

And blogged faithfully twice a week to prove it all!

I cannot even describe how grateful I am to everyone this year for the support, the love, and the cheering section.  I’ve said it before, but I don’t think I could have known what I was getting into even if someone had attempted to tell me.  This year has been rough.  You, dear readers, have definitely made things more bearable and for that I am so thankful.  

Some Statistics for this Semester…

Total library books taken out this semester: 77
Total minutes of in-class presentation given: 85
Total turned-in pages at end of semester: 70
Total pages of drafts written: 337
Total performances attended: 13

So, Dani, you just finished the first year of your PhD, what are you going to do now?  Well, I do have one class over the summer.  I’m taking a German for Reading course in hopes that it will help me pass an exam to fulfill my second language requirement.  I’ve never studied German before and it’s been a while since I’ve done any kind of learning other than “read and discuss”, so this should be very interesting.

In addition, I have a few papers I’ll be taking some time to polish and submit.  It’s time to publish lest I perish, and being a model ABD ain’t just a pipe-dream for a kid with a hope and a dollar.  I will also be making as big a dent on the comps list as I can in my copious amounts of free time.

To further impinge upon that free time, I’m serving as Dramaturge for Tufts’ 2012 production of Measure for Measure.  We don’t start rehearsing until deep fall, but the summer is when we’re getting our acting edition together.  This means that I’ll be spending my days working with the director to get the script into the shape we want it (much more exciting and difficult than it sounds – don’t worry, I’m sure that this will be blog fodder all summer long).

This year, I have been pushed to the outer walls of my limits.  I have accomplished things which I, at points, didn’t think possible.  And, I’ve done it with panache and style!  Here’s the good news for all you faithful readers (and perhaps the bad news for me): the worst is not over by a long shot.  I’ve been fastidiously advised by my senior peers as I was crossing the finish line this semester that coursework is the easiest part of this entire process.

Well, darn it.  I guess I should spend another year in easy land and truly brace for what’s to come.  Because if this is easy, then I’m not sure how I’m going to handle the hard stuff…

But for now, I am hopeful.  It’s a beautiful day, I have a paper to revise, and my red pen is itching for some action.  After that I’m going to lounge on my couch for a while before a rock-climbing date with my favorite traveling companion.

Today: the rock gym.  Tomorrow: the world.

And for now: I will take a much deserved bow.