Type A Problems

One of the best things that I do for myself is take notes.

Okay, this might seem self-explanatory, but frequent and persistent application of the basics can really get you through research’s tough problems.

Of course I take notes when I’m reading. How can you read something that you hope to retain and not take notes? In fact, I often read things so quickly that I will forget I have read them unless my notes are copious, well-organized, and well-labeled. Since the dissertation is… you know… a BIG GIANT RESEARCH PROJECT REQUIRING A LOT OF RESEARCH, I’ve extended this one step further.

I’ve started taking notes on my notes.

Yup, that’s right, I’ve gone one more giant leap down the type-A rabbit hole. In science, being able to reproduce your results is extremely important. As such, scientists copiously document (and even publish) their research processes. This is one thing that I think we in the humanities can attempt to duplicate. The research process needs to be something that you can map, at least for yourself. I need to know where I have been in order to sustain where I am going and not just trace and re-trace the same old habitrails day in and day out.

So I started a research journal. I have started to record which databases I query on a given day, the search terms I use, and hyperlink any findings. I note what was useful, what perhaps was less so, and any special considerations I will have to make in the future. At the end of the day, I leave myself ideas about where I want to go next. This makes re-immersing in deep research much easier; I no longer have to spend time looking for my train of thought because it’s right there on paper. In the long run, I feel that this will also prevent gigantic duplications in effort. “I forget, did I check this particular obscure thing? Oh well, better check it again just to be sure.” In essence, I am mapping for myself the territory that I trod in an effort to help myself remember exactly what’s going into this giant project.

In other news, I leave for New York in six days and counting. This time next week, I will have already had my first series of meeting in my five-week journey to enlightenment.

I’m still trying to figure out what to pack, but at least 95% of my archive appointments are taken care of….

Back with a Vengeance

Hello, everyone! I’m back from a lovely one-week vacation to the South of our great land where I was able to accomplish several things (not the least of which being visiting my lovely little sister, and gallivanting around her place of employment… Disney. Yes, I know,

While I was in Disney this might have happened....

While I was in Disney this might have happened….

life is hard when you’re a Rosvally).

Today, I was back in the saddle hitting the ground running. I’m honored to be a Fellow at the Tufts Graduate Institute For Teaching program this summer and, as such, am participating in twelve seminars designed to help improve my skills as a teacher. I’m learning a lot already (today was the first day) and am overjoyed to be meeting and interacting with other graduate students from (gasp) different departments. It’s nice to have somewhere to go first thing in the morning; this kind of structure really kicks off the day right and is something that I’ve been missing in recent semesters due to coursework having come to a close. Dissertation work can be extremely isolating, and this Institute is really the perfect combination of socialization, enrichment, professional development, and personal accountability for me at this point in my graduate career.

As part of seminar this morning, one of our glorious presenters gave us a sheet of quotations about war meant to spark conversation. None of them were accredited (in an effort not to bias us) but after the exercise was over, he went down the list and let us know where each had originated. I was perplexed when he reached one axiom that we’ve probably all heard before: “all is fair in love and war”. The presenter attributed it to Shakespeare and then admitted that it’s been said by people ad infinitum the world over since the dawn of time and moved on.

I was dubious about accrediting this quotation to my man Will because, first thing’s first, the syntax really doesn’t scream “Bard” to me. Secondly, and this is where things get hazy, I wasn’t recalling it from any of the plays off the top of my head (this is often a good source of information but not necessarily definitive; while I can probably quote more than is healthy for a human being, I’m not going to claim an encyclopedic knowledge of the entire canon…yet).

The attribution was really a minor point and I didn’t want to hang the class up with something completely tangential to what we were actually talking about. However, the factoid kept wheedling me after we left seminar (so much so that I was inclined to look it up on my own and determine where this famous phrase came from).

Sure enough, I was right. It’s not a Willism. The first round of answers I got were mixed; some attributing it to English novelist and playwright John Lyly and some to English novelist Francis Edward Smedley.

Further investigation proved that both of these answer are, after a fashion, correct. The Lyly derivation is actually a paraphrase of a line from Lyly’s 1579 novel, Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit. Lyly actually wrote: “the rules of fair play do not apply in love and war” (you can see where the paraphrase is a bit more elegant for today’s syntax).

pretty flowering tree I found on campus today

pretty flowering tree I found on campus today

Which left the Smedley question. How did he get mixed up in this? I looked into things a bit more and discovered that, in fact, the first appearance of the quote as-is was in the 1850 novel Frank Fairleigh by Francis Edward Smedley (who apparently, in addition to one of the funniest names in literary history, also had a flare for the axiomatic).

Neither of these people are Shakespeare (though, funny enough, Lyly is noted for having written pretty copiously for the child companies, popular amongst upper class Elizabethan audiences and notorious for “stealing” audience members from the adult companies such as Will’s). So there you go! While it’s often a safe bet to attribution quotable quotes to Will, it’s never a sure-fire thing (as proven by this, your little bit of pop up dramaturgy for today). I hope that your week is off to an incredible start! Mine certainly is.

White Lies

As the weather gets nicer, it’s becoming more and more difficult to focus on the work I need to do rather than go outside and play all the time. This means that my running has definitely gotten some attention, but that I’ve had to get clever with how I get myself to my desk in the morning.

I was once given the advice that, whenever you’re feeling down about your work (and hey, it happens!), you should “eat dessert first”. Find what it is about the topic, the job, whatever it is you’re doing that drew you there in the first place. Some of what we do as academics is administrative red tape rigmarole, some of it is downright unpleasant, but there’s always going to be that shining kernel of things you love.

This week, it’s been about using that kernel to trick myself to my desk.

Due to the generosity of my home institution, I’ve been given the gift of research this summer. I’m enabled and empowered to visit New York for a full month to do dissertation research (which is vital because, you know, my dissertation is kind of all about New York). I’m so EXTREMELY excited for my trip for so many reasons (not the least of which being all the food from home that I miss so much up here in Boston). This means that I have to take some time before my trip to figure out what I’m actually going to look at at each of the various archives that I will be visiting.

Here's a picture of a T-Rex that I found in a bar a couple weeks ago.  For no reason really just that I had nothing else to put here.

Here’s a picture of a T-Rex that I found in a bar a couple weeks ago. For no reason really just that I had nothing else to put here.

Which basically means online shopping. I’ve spent no small amount of time this week (and will spend some more in weeks to come) browsing the catalogues of my target institutions for items that might have information which would help my project. Essentially, I get to sift through the holdings of these CRAZY LARGE PLACES in order to try and determine what small subset will be worth my while to look at.

This process is more complicated than you might think. The trouble is that library science, while certainly further along than it was when my grandparents were working on their dissertations (while I have used a card catalogue, it’s thankfully only a small subset of a specific corner of my research which requires such medieval measures), is still an imperfect science. But it’s not the field’s fault really; I mean how do you accurately catalogue boxes upon boxes of material in a way that is intuitive to the general researcher? Generally, the answer involves a complex series of sub-headings, and documents known as “finding aids” (slightly more detailed descriptions of what’s in a box than the collection’s title, but when I say “slightly” I often mean just that… most finding aids that come across my desk are one-line descriptions of date, persons involved (if it’s a letter then usually it’ll be the to/from), and maybe some brief description of places involved). These “finding aids” can be quite old and are generally in PDF form (and not even OCR PDF) which means that, rather than use a computer to look for the word/words you might need to key you in to items on this twelve-page list which might be useful, you have to sift through them using your own two eyes.

If this sounds like a special breed of torture, then you’re not entirely wrong. After about hour five of this, I tend to be too tired to continue without fear of missing something important. But the cool part is that you get little bursts of inspiration/encouragement along the way. Remember, you’re looking through these lists to find something related to your research. That means that the gems you find here will be the things that are the backbone of your project; one document could change the way we look at history! Every time I find something in one of these aids that might be useful to me, I get (at least a little bit) excited. What I’m looking at now will, when it’s in front of me, help to formulate the big ideas that I’m currently wrestling with and provide the documentation to support my arguments.

Also, handling stuff that’s easily five times your age never gets old.

So that’s been my method of tricking myself into productivity this week. Let’s see how long it holds up!

Books Don’t Keep you Warm

Here is your obligatory complaining about the weather post: on Tuesday it was warm enough for a run outside.  Today I’m going to have to shovel my driveway before I leave for class.  Because I live in New England.

I’ve spent the week looking yearningly out of windows and hoping that the words “Spring Break” would actually mean something to the weather gods.  Unfortunately for me, the weather gods are tricksy jerks and care not for a university schedule, or even the pleas of a desperate doctoral candidate looking for some small way to salvage what’s left of her sanity.

On that note, I don’t know why I’m continually surprised at the revivifying quality that exercise has on my mind.  No matter how many times I prove it to be true, I am consistently astounded by the fact that if I go for some kind of physical activity right at the point when my eyes get bloobity and I can’t really read/comprehend what’s on the page in front of me, an hour later I’m raring to go again.  This re-realization only compounds my yearning for the warmer weather; convincing myself to go outside for an hour is so much easier when “outside” is a pleasant place to be.  I do break down and move my workouts indoors during inclement weather, but even walking from my door to the gym can sometimes be a fight when it’s bitter and leaky out there.

If anyone knows anyone who has a hookup with someone who can make spring come faster here in Massachusetts, I’d be ever so grateful.  I’m plumb tired of being cold.

Dissertation work is draining, and my book fort doesn’t seem to be moving one way or another.  This is mostly due to the fact that the minute I manage to reduce my “to read”

artistic desk shot.  This doesn't really expound the extent of the book fort, but it does look pretty.

artistic desk shot. This doesn’t really expound the extent of the book fort, but it does look pretty.

pile to workable number, I get another dose of ILL books from the library and stack them on top again.  Despite diligently hacking away at the pile on my desk (which at one point this week was tall enough to literally bury me), I’m still surrounded by things that need to be read.

I suppose I should look at the other end for any indication of real progress: it is true that my “have read” book fort is steadily growing larger.  It has, at this point, expanded to the point of walling me into my desk.  I have to traverse an obstacle course before I can actually sit down these days.  The scary part is that I haven’t even really begun to work on the bulk of the project; I’m still just picking at the edges.  I suppose that means I’ve chosen a topic ripe for exploration, but it does leave me a wee bit nervous about just how many library books I’m going to be held accountable for before this is all over.

And that’s not even to consider the archival work ahead of me.  I’ve identified piles upon piles of things that I’ll have to sort through; but at least those items won’t follow me home.  Well, they will, but in neatly sifted digitized form so that they won’t take up any room on my floor (just on my hard drive).

And on that note, it’s time to re-launch today’s attack upon Research Mountain.  Wish me luck!

 

Apple for the Teacher?

I am absolutely inundated in work.  All of it is good and fun, but oh man it’s a lot.

I started teaching my Shakespeare Appreciation class today for the OSHER Lifelong Learning Institute at Tufts.  OSHER is a continuing adult education program and they have an office at Tufts, so we graduate students frequently get pinged to pitch seminars at the program we might be interested in teaching.  Of course I saw this as an opportunity to talk about Will with a roomful of willing victims pupils, so I proposed a class.  It was snapped up immediately with great enthusiasm.  Once accepted, the course hit high

Shot I grabbed from inside the Cutler Majestic recently.... and then instagramed... but the filters make it so pretty!

Shot I grabbed from inside the Cutler Majestic recently…. and then instagramed… but the filters make it so pretty!

registration numbers which is even more exciting.  On the whole, I felt that the program really supported the possibility of a successful workshop.

I’m teaching As you Like it and King Lear over the course of eight weeks (with one odd little hiccup next week; since it’s Spring Break we won’t be holding seminar).  We started by discussing the first two acts of As You today.  I framed this with a discussion of Shakespeare’s early years as well as the pastoral genre and the differences we find between court and country in Shakespeare’s play.  I also showed a clip from the Branagh film.  While I don’t think it’s the best example out there of a well performed As you Like it (the concept is confused at best, and blenderized at worst…) I do think that it provides a great forum for discussion.

My class consists of fifteen students all well into their adult years with a plethora of backgrounds.  This is really exciting because it means that I have the opportunity to chat with all different levels of Shakespearience in one room.  I did a lot of lecture today, which I hope to remedy in the future, but by the time we were into the film they were ready to jump in with their own thoughts.

Teaching this workshop is a lot more relaxing than teaching a standard college course.  First of all, there’s no grading (which, by the way, takes up an enormous time devotion if you’re doing it right).  Secondly, everyone in that room really wants to be there and is dedicated to getting something out of the class.  This is wonderful because it gives me the opportunity to assume that we’re all interested in the topic rather than fulfilling our gen ed requirements.  There’s already the spark of curiosity in this room, which goes a long way towards generating good wholesome dialogue amongst ourselves.  Last, and certainly not least, these are adults.  They are older than I am.  They have vastly more world experience than I do.  They are definitely ready to learn from me, but I am so stoked about the possibilities of what they see in the material.  Their smorgasbord of experience, so different from mine, is really going to highlight this text from an entirely new perspective than the ones I’m used to.

So while my Mondays just got longer, I’m totally mind-numbingly ecstatic about it.  It’s going to be a lot to work through, but I think it will definitely be worthwhile; both for me and for my new students.

Ascendance

After a hard-fought uphill battle, I am EXTREMELY pleased to report that I have ascended to Candidacy (with distinction, even!).

I would like to say that this occurred with great pomp, ceremony, circumstance, a standing ovation, and an elephant parade.  In actuality, it occurred in an office, at an unremarkable hour on Friday with little ceremony other than a few hearty handshakes.  T.S. Eliot’s prediction about the world ending could very well apply to my ascendance (…while I could also use the word “advancement”, how often in life do you get to say that you “ascended” as applied to yourself?).

I didn’t then make a great clamor, but rather had a lovely lunch with a friend, went directly to rehearsal to choreograph the murder of Young Siward on the battlefield by a bloodthirsty Scottish King whose name shall remain unsaid (using broadswords even), then went out to dinner with my beloved.  Saturday we celebrated with a spectacular trip to an ice castle in the White Mountains (a gorgeous drive, even when

At night, lit up, the ice was just lovely.

At night, lit up, the ice was just lovely.

headed through a not-so-small snowstorm on your way home).

I’ve begun a two-week sabbatical from most things academic because I’ve been running on overdrive since May.  I can only stop doing “most things” because the semester has already begun and, therefore, my acting class is in session.  Luckily it’s a joy to teach and not as thinky as something like… say… Postmodern Theory.

While I would like to say that being ABD doesn’t feel any different from being a Ph.D. Student, right now it feels completely different.  For once, I get to think about my own projects and only my own projects.  I get to stop worrying about crazy exams and tests that measure my aptitude for things that I may or may not use (probably will, but who knows?) in the near future.  I get a chance to really stretch my wings and fly home to victory while dancing in the glory of my subject matter.  In other words: from here on in, it’s all-Shakespeare all-the-time.

Mostly.  Unless I pick up an intro class, or a history of theatre class, or a writing seminar, or any number of things that they might ask an adjust instructor with a degree in English to teach.  I might even teach (gasp!) novels!

But for the next two weeks, I’m catching up on e-mails, putting projects to bed that have been awake for far too long and are (thereby) cranky, running errands that have lain dormant far past their expirations dates, and on the whole preparing for the next step in this grand adventure that is doctorhood.

So for now, I sign of as (for the first time),

Danielle Rosvally
ABD!!!!!!!!

An Observation

Here’s a problem I write about pretty frequently which seems newly pertinent today: when you’re a good academic, you never stop working.

I can’t tell you the last time I spent a whole weekend without answering a work-related e-mail, cracking a work-related book, doing a library run, doing work-related writing, discussing my research, sitting at my desk, contemplating a draft, going to rehearsal, doing research, or just flat-out tagging an extra two days onto my work week.

In any other field, this would be called “workaholism”. The constant drive to continue doing whatever it is that earns you a paycheck without a regular break is widely regarded as an unhealthy work habit.

And yet, somehow, in academia it is encouraged.

Oh sure they tell you “take time off” or “walk away from your desk at the end of the day”, but really, do we? In the age of smart phones, is it even possible to leave your work at work? And what does that mean since the ivory tower is such a theoretical construct? It would be impossible for me to function if having healthy work habits meant that I could only work when on campus.

I’ve had to find ways to delineate the boundaries between my work and my life (for example, unless it’s the middle of summer and a scorcher day and thereby I need to seek refuge in air conditioning somewhere, I only work at my desk and will not bring reading to my couch or my bed no matter how tempting). But even I, with a keen eye on this issue, find that work creeps into every aspect of my life.

While out having an amazing time this weekend, I couldn’t avoid the fact that I was receiving e-mails related to my class, or my exams, or my upcoming conferences. I couldn’t stop blathering about the research I was doing and the new things I’ve realized about American actor training. My head so far into this game, it’s not really possible (I think) to leave this by the wayside.

It may just be that I’m at a particularly taxing point of the PhD process (well… I definitely am), but I can’t help but feel that this is an under-attended issue.

That being said, I have nominal suggestions for how to fix it. Thought patterns being what

....spectacular adventures like this one.  I rode an elephant!

….spectacular adventures like this one. I rode an elephant!

they are, the best work is going to come from immersion. My plan this semester was to dive in head first and take a nice long break when I popped up on the other side (so… in December sometimes). Meanwhile, I’ve been content with having a few spectacular adventures during the in-between times.

And now… back to the grind.

Jargon

I’m at a truly odd point of my PhD process.  That is: the in-between place.

Right now, I’m not quite a “Student” not quite a “Candidate”.  I’ve passed 2/3 of my exams, but I still have 1/3 to go before I can say that I’ve completed them and, thereby, moved into the next stage of my PhD.

Explaining this to folks who are outside of the academy has been an interesting process.  There are many terms and definitions that are commonplace to us denizens of the ivory tower but sound mostly the same to folks on the outside.  As such, I’ve found myself having the same conversation over and over again (which I don’t begrudge; it’s wonderful that

...bringing this one back because it's quite possibly my favorite pic I've ever posted on the blog.  I am, in fact, a Shakespeare Paladin.

…bringing this one back because it’s quite possibly my favorite pic I’ve ever posted on the blog. I am, in fact, a Shakespeare Paladin.

folks in my life care enough about me to ask questions about this process).  However, since I’ve found that it is a common communication issue, I also think it would be useful to have an easy-access reference guide for those less-than-familiar with this process.

So, in case you have a struggling Graduate Student in your life, here’s some good vocabulary for you to know:

A.B.D.: Stands for “All But Dissertation”.  This is a colloquial term that we use to refer to someone who has passed all of her degree requirements except writing the book.  It’s also a way to refer to someone who is a….

Doctoral Candidate: Someone who has passed all degree requirements except the dissertation (generally means that the dissertation is in process).  This is not to be confused with…

Doctoral Student: (Yes, this is a different thing, only in academia….)  A Doctoral Student is someone who is in progress with the early parts of the degree (coursework, exams, etc.).  Alternately, someone who has been accepted into a program but hasn’t started that program yet.  As an aside: mixing up these two terms can be… awkward.  You are either giving someone credit for work they did not already do and thereby devaluing that work, or taking away a hard-earned benchmark.  I have, over the years, been called by well-meaning onlookers a “Doctoral Candidate” and even “Dr. Rosvally” before needing to quickly correct this.  In an industry that functions almost exclusively on the importance of words, it is not considered supportive to devalue those words by using them outside of their accepted meanings.  In short: try to use the appropriate title for someone in the process of his PhD.  Don’t worry; you have the rest of his lives to call him “Dr.”.

Comprehensive Exams: Or “Comps” (yes, if you’ve been following this blog at all over the last few months, you already know what this means).  The exhaustive, stressful exam generally administered at the end of coursework (sometimes administered in steps over the course of coursework) that proves a student is a competent generalist in her field and, thereby, is qualified to move on to the next step.

Orals: Sometimes, the comps include an oral examination as well as a written examination (this is the case in my department).

Dissertation: The large piece of writing you produce as one of the final steps in your PhD process.  This is an exhaustive, original piece of scholarship and (presumable) a PhD’s first long-term project.  It is sometimes colloquially shortened to “diss”.  It is not to be confused with a…

Thesis: This generally refers to the culminating project of a Master’s degree.  It is shorter than a dissertation and with less expectations of originality.  The big difference between a Master’s degree and a doctoral degree is that a Master’s degree shows that you have mastered a given field while a doctoral degree shows that you have added something to the field.  The capstone writing projects for each degree exhibit this difference; the thesis is based upon work that has already been done and the dissertation is something completely new.

Home Institution: The place where a scholar calls “home”.  This implies that the scholar is somehow in residence at the institution, either as a student, candidate, or professor.

 Committee: An assembled group of scholars (who, ideally, have some expertise in the field which the candidate is writing about) who evaluate the dissertation for its worthiness

alternately, you could find a partner to go dance in a bookstore with.  No word of a lie, this is a past time of mine.

alternately, you could find a partner to go dance in a bookstore with. No word of a lie, this is a past time of mine.

as an original piece of scholarship.  Generally, this group consists mostly of scholars from the candidate’s home institution with one outside reader for consistency/fairness/representation of the field at large.

So now that you’re able to use the lingo, your academic street cred just went up by at least 10%.  Seriously.  Go have a latte and stand on the steps of the library chatting about your most recent re-read of a major canonical work and see if I’m wrong.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Perspective

As I have previously mentioned, comps does many things.  Among those things, it gives you perspective.

It gives you perspective about your friends.  Who is really going to be there to cook you dinner at the end of the day when you can barely make eye contact and talking about anything that’s not theatre history is simply out of the question?  Who is going to not be offended that you haven’t called/been to a party/replied to text messages for the last few months because you’ve been swallowed into the oblivion of studying?  Who is going to understand when you just need to sit and stare at the wall/cry/talk out an idea that they have no possible way to contribute to?  Who is going to respond to the rally of “I need to not be in my house tonight, but I don’t have any energy to expend socially”?

It gives you perspective about your life.  Can you ever really say that you’re having a stressful day ever again?  Or a bad day for that matter?

It gives you perspective about what you can and cannot handle and what you can and cannot do.  I, for instance, am never going to say that I don’t have enough time to complete x assignment again without some serious thought about what I managed to do in four-days with my take-home exam.  I have a better idea of my own limits both emotionally and intellectually.

Most pertinent to my everyday life and writing, however, is this: it gives you perspective about books.  I have a brand new notion of how big a “big” book is, or how many books is “a lot” of books.  What this really means is that my perspective is skewed.  I sat down, for instance, to write about how I should be doing some research right now and sorting through the “large pile of books” that I brought home from the library today.  But looking at it?  It’s not that big.

In other news... campus was really pretty today!

In other news… campus was really pretty today!

…it’s really not my fault that, at my peak this summer, I was reading 5-7 books in a day and, thereby, a stack of 8 books no longer looks insurmountable, right?  Somehow, this newfound regard for the amount of research that I am capable of is somewhat dehumanizing.  If I can really pound through that many books in a day, then what does it say on days when I don’t?  Days when I’m working at my usual speed rather than ridiculous comps-speed?

The psychological aftershock of this process is something that I’m going to be dealing with for some time now.  Also; I’m not even really done yet.  I still have orals to get through.

No rest for the weary.

Reclaiming my Life

In a faster-than-light turn-around time, the fate of my PhD career has been decided: I have, officially, passed my written comprehensive exam!

There is still a long way to go on the road to doctorhood (next up: orals; after which I can (non-denominational deity willing) call myself a “Doctoral Candidate” instead of a “Doctoral Student” and, perhaps, take a much-needed and well-deserved BREAK).  That said, I’m champing at the bit for the next challenge and I’ve hit the ground running with the projects which had been sitting dormant just waiting for my exams to be complete.

I had been told that Comps would drain me.  That I should expect to not do much of anything for a week or so after I sat the exam.

I found that this was true for the day or two directly following my final turn-in moment.  I was dead tired.  But I was also aware, as only a Type A personality can be, that I had a long list of things waiting for me.  I had some deadlines looming; conference papers to write, blog posts that I owed people (details on that to follow!), and friends to catch up with.

While I was bone-weary, I was simultaneously caught in an existential loop of utter chaos.

a pretty shot of campus I took the other day

a pretty shot of campus I took the other day

My life had been built upon preparing for and taking this exam for so long; what was I supposed to do now without it?  Who was I if I wasn’t a book-reading machine designed only to take notes and choke down more theatre history?  And what did my academic career really mean if I, for some reason, hadn’t succeeded at this monumental thing that I just did?

That not-so-slowly faded into a wave of “OH GOD I HAVE ALL THESE PROJECTS TO DO!”  Luckily, since I had effectively proven to myself via the test that I’m an invincible super-girl, this did not panic me nearly as much as it would have in the days B.C. (Before Comps).  In picking at the sides of my projects, I have been slowly but surely making good progress on them and, after Tuesday, will have knocked a few things off my desk so I can move onto the next step: orals.

It also took me some time to reconnect with my social and personal life.  Towards the end of the comps process, I limited my interaction with the outside world.  Part of this was of necessity; since I was studying much more, I didn’t have time to see anyone.  Part of this was also a calming mechanism: as a terminal introvert, I just didn’t have the extra energy for social interaction.  Especially any social interaction that I had to think about (which, for an introvert, is a surprisingly large amount).  Because of all these factors (and the fact that I was still tired and brain-fried), I had to be very careful about re-introducing myself to my life.  I did not have a giant blowout bash; I made play-dates to see my close friends in small group situations.  I did not invite a ton of people over to my house; I went outside to smell the fresh air and not have to look at my desk for a while.

I cleaned my desk.  Oh god did I clean my desk.

I also hopped in to rehearsal to put together some stage violence. Because nothing gets me feeling like myself again like punching students.

I also hopped in to rehearsal to put together some stage violence. Because nothing gets me feeling like myself again like punching students.

I’m slowly returning library books, but as my last count was over 150 books and I can only bring them back in manageable loads (10-20 or so), it’s been taking some time.  At this point, I’ve gotten at least half of them returned (though I have picked up some more in the process to assist me with aforementioned projects).

I am, with more and more seriousness, exploring the idea of reading for leisure once more.  During the final stages of studying, it was all I could do to tumble into bed at night and, due to eyestrain and general brain fatigue, leisure reading was right out.  This unfortunately meant that To Be or Not to Be (Choose your own Adventure Hamlet) and William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope sat sadly in the corner mostly un-cracked.  The more days that go by, the more these volumes look appealing to me.  It’s like regaining your appetite after you’ve had a stomach flu; it feels so good just to want these things again.

I’ve been calling this process “reclaiming my life” because, really, that’s how it feels.  For several days after the exam, I walked around feeling not like myself.  Like a stranger in my own body.  These days, I’m feeling more and more Dani-like.  The whiteboard is back to its normal peacekeeping.  My tasks feel less alien and more comfortable (and comforting!).  I’ve returned to using caffeine as a morning stimulant and not a life-line.

On the whole, I’m doing great.  I’m not back to 100% yet, but I can tell that I’ll get there.  I’m also feeling ready to take on the next challenge which, really, is the most important part.

Onward!  Into the Wild Blue Yonder! To Doctorhood; and beyond!