Dissertation Update

I have: A topic. A relevant, unanswered research question. A good study location. Contacts (good ones) in that study location. A generous potential (likely) funder with an approaching deadline. A good committee.

What I realized last week that I *don’t* have: The all-encompassing drive and obsession to do said study.

In a big “oh shit” moment, I realized that while I’ve been pursuing all that makes sense in terms of laying out a dissertation, thinking that my “ah-ha” moment would come along the way, the bottom line is that there has been no epiphany. No sudden relevation, no “Portrait of the Artist” moment of looking out at a girl on the beach, no moment of deeper meaning, of knowing. In truth, my life is very much constructed by these watershed experiences. I look to them to supply the incredible drive that characterizes who I am. Without that drive, I lose a little hutzpah.

All of this explains a little of why I’ve been in the dulldrums lately. I do find myself wondering if my lack of spark is a pregnancy thing. Am I just too tired to feel motivated? Is being back in New Orleans, in the house, neighborhood, and city I love, too overwhelming? Carl, my chair extraordinaire, faced my admission of funk with usual foritude: “Your reactions are perfectly normal.” I spent the last week deciding whether or not to submit… Carl’s suggestion: submit if you think you might want to do it, don’t submit if it’s a definite that you don’t.

The bottom line is that I can’t decide anything right now, so I’m not submitting. Paul and I spoke long about this — it pushes back our return to Peru* and even puts our return in question. I think I just need time. The plan was always to take the summer off to be with the baby. I’ll reconnect more formally to the University for work in the fall and go from there. It’s a radical move off the track that I so carefully and thoughtfully laid out. (I’m not following the plan!) The whole thing has made me feel like a total flake. (Loving friend’s response: “Ha. You, Holly, are hardly a flake.“)

Pushing the possibility of “flake” a little further, I’ll paraphrase Barbie: Dissertations are hard.

*An aside on the subject of our going back to Peru: anyone following the elections? I have to admit being a little worried. Having been evacuated from India, I’m a little sensitive. We are watching with serious interest.