A Little Bit of Wonder is where I journal about the somewhat roundabout way that I have been working to establish a career and a strong sense of self--I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about "direction" and "identity." I have a Master's Degree in Literature, but I'm no longer working as an English Professor; I'm starting the next step in my life as I work to establish a career as a writer in the non-profit sector.

At my companion blog, Little Wonder's Recommended Reading, you will find reviews for both books and other blogs that I enjoy. The two blogs are inter-linked, so you can access my reviews and reading challenges from the sidebar on the left.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Finish Line

Ph.D. applications: submitted.
Final Paper #1: completed and turned in.
Exam: taken.

I feel like I'm "done," whatever that means; I took my exam last night, the only exam I had this semester (thankfully), and then I came home and had a little celebration with my husband. He made me delicious a pizza with extra cheese, mushrooms and peppers (plus basil and oregano, which really made the sausage extra-tasty) and I ate it in bed while we watched Casino Royale... I always want to spend two or three days in bed watching TV and reading after I finish up a semester of graduate school, and it's not really because I'm physically exhausted. It's like I need to retreat to the most comfortable, safe place I know in order to recuperate. I want to become a hermit--after last Spring Semester, I don't think I even left the apartment for about a week.

I feel like I have the freedom to lay around more, leave the alarm turned off and maybe even go shopping or something. The holiday merchandise at stores like Old Navy, Bath & Body and Pier One are calling to me. We also desperately need certain grocery items, since I haven't had time to go to the store for the last two weeks, and the apartment needs a good cleaning. I won't describe the disturbing details, but suffice it to say that it's bad enough that I'm actually kind of looking forward to dusting, vacuuming, sorting out the stacks of papers and boxes...

I feel like I have the freedom to do these things, but I'm not quite there yet--I still have Research Paper #2 to conquer, with only three days left before its due. I can't afford to quit or even slow down just yet, so perhaps my celebratory pizza-in-bed was a little premature and emotionally misleading. I justified it as being necessary for my mental health, a rejuvenating few hours to make sure I was ready to tackle this last project of the semester. The exam itself was, after all, a little demoralizing and discouraging.

But even once I turn that paper in, I won't really be "done." Over Christmas "Break," I have to study for more exams and research my thesis so that I don't become too overwhelmed during the spring semester. (These exciting descriptions of my life are reminding me of why graduate students do not make good television characters.) I get the feeling the finish line is at least as far off as late April/early May, when I graduate--and then what? A summer of learning Spanish and doing research for my Ph.D. program, if I'm lucky enough to be accepted into school again for the fall.

But this is the kind of thinking (complaining, really) that will make it impossible for me to be cheery about my life. I know I want to keep doing what I'm doing, and it will continue to get easier as life moves along. I've already learned to manage my anxiety much better--last year, I spent most of my time (waking and sleeping) in a complete panic, not to mention being a wreck about exams. In contrast, when faced with ten minutes to finish my second essay during the exam (which was only two-thirds completed), I was able to swallow my panic even then. I should feel much better about that achievement alone.

I only want a few moments to enjoy my life before I hit my mid-sixties--that's all I ask. I need to find a finish line, and I need to think of this educational process as more than one race. I don't need a medal every time I finish something--a gold star sticker and a cookie will do just fine. But I definitely have to find myself some down time before I launch into the research for my thesis and all the other work for next semester. I think maybe I'll stay in bed next week, after I turn in my paper, and reread Harry Potter.

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