Dissertation panic

I’ve long been aiming to complete my Ph.D. dissertation and officially graduate at the end of this term, meaning I’d “walk” and be “hooded” on June 4.  I assumed that as long as I finished, presented, and defended my dissertation before that, I was golden.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I learned two days ago that I had to finish a month before commencement in order to participate. This means that I now have 13 days to finish and defend my dissertation.

No really, I should be working on my dissertation RIGHT NOW.

The reality is actually much more grim. For me to defend my dissertation by June 6, I need to actually have a complete draft done several days sooner.  That way my committee can review and provide feedback, while I still have time to make final edits and resubmit. And they’ll need to have some time to review the final version before I officially present and defend.  (Plus I have to create a PowerPoint presentation to walk through the key points, but that ought to be easy for me.)

All this said, I realistically have 8 days to get a full draft of my Ph.D. dissertation finished and ready for reviewer feedback.

Why, you might be asking, would I push myself to such Herculean lengths to meet an arbitrary and last-minute deadline? Why not simply give it the time and attention that it warrants, and spend the next several (rather than <2)  weeks really doing a thorough and evenly-paced job of finishing my dissertation?

Quite frankly, after spending last week with Dad, I don’t know how much longer he has. And I am determined to do everything in my power to finish my Ph.D. while he’s still here to see my accomplishment. He almost certainly will not still be here for the December commencement ceremony, as his health is declining pretty rapidly. I’m not even 100% sure that he’ll make it through the next two weeks to see me finish as it is.

I had a great conversation with my dad this week, where he reiterated how proud of me he is. I am so close to finishing this major life accomplishment, something that only about 1% of people manage to do. I’m going to do whatever it takes to finish in time, and let the man shake my hand as a Ph.D. while he’s still around to do so. The next time I see him, he can proudly talk about his son the Ph.D. graduate.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I should be writing.

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