Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Thesis Defense Passed!!

Good news, I passed my thesis defense!!  It was yesterday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. and I have rarely been so glad to be done with anything. I've been an absolute nervous wreck about it, but I felt that way about my comps, too, if you remember and I did fine with them. Having the defense done is just such a feeling of accomplishment, I can't even describe it. It's truly very validating! I mean, in the face of 121 pages, to sit down and discuss it with people who have read your work and actually want to talk about it with you, it seals the deal. It makes it final and tells me that what I've done is valid to people who have done much more.

Honestly, now, I'm not sure what I was worried about. I've been fretting over it for so long, maybe fear of the unknown or of failure--I've always had a bit of trouble feeling any sort of security in the knowledge that I'm smart or capable--so when the time came I nearly couldn't do it. I did, though, go to my friend, Marsha's defense on Monday and she has two of the same committee members as me, so I was able to see how they're conducted in an atmosphere that wasn't at all threatening to me--I wasn't in the hot seat! After seeing her defense, I felt eons better, but when Tuesday came my fear was back... if not in full force.

Ultimately, I had some lunch and kept it down, which I was proud of myself for accomplishing, and went to my defense. Cowering or not, I went and I only told my committee chair, Dr. Young, that I couldn't do it once. On the way there I did look down and find some errors, like an aberrant space on the table of contents, and the date lines being wrong on the approval page, which freaked me out. You never want to go to these things knowing you've still got errors, it doesn't instill confidence, but I knew already that there would be some things to fix. Dr. Young is so patient in reminding me that we have until July 5 to get all the kinks worked out before it has to be to the graduate college for more corrections.

Once we got started, I was fine!  Better than fine, actually. You never realize how much you want to talk about your work, particularly something you've been pouring your heart and soul in to for a year, until you're sitting there with people who care and want to listen. I had an amazing time discussing how I came to this topic, the discovery process in researching, how this topic wasn't what I had in mind when I started grad school, how much I enjoy--both personally and academically--studying the Gothic. They asked me some deeper questions regarding things like how I see the Gothic addressing the anxieties of society now, during the postmodern era, or how, given the distinction between terror and horror I saw them manifesting in modern society, and much more.

When they asked me about what I would say to future graduate students, my advice was simple: no matter how badly you want to, never give up. It seems generic, but it's the truth. It's not an easy process, it's not supposed to be.  Self doubt is inevitable, giving up is easy, keeping at it is not. I also told them that I thought the thesis was a wonderful exercise, that I thoroughly enjoyed it, and that I felt like to do the MA without it was to miss out on something so educating and gratifying. Without having done the thesis, which is the hardest thing I've ever done, I don't think I'd feel nearly as educated. I truly feel like it's something every MA student, at least every MA student in English, should try for. It's an amazing experience, even though it was frustrating and heartbreaking at times, too.

I also thanked them for all the hard work they've been putting in on my behalf. They get nothing extra for doing this, yet they're so willing to work hard and make this experience as gratifying and educational for me as possible, which means a lot.  Finally, I feel like writing the thesis has made me a much stronger writer, much more capable of seeing how ideas go together in the grand scheme of things.  It has been wonderful and I'm going to miss grad school when I'm done.

All in all, it went for about an hour and fifteen minutes before all was said and done. Then, they sent me out and discussed it for a few minutes before bringing me back inside and congratulating me on having done a "beautiful job."  I don't think I was ever more proud of myself than I was yesterday, when Dr. Young smiled at me and said, "Congratulations!" Not even when I passed my comps. There is just something very gratifying about looking into the faces of people you respect and seeing pride there... for you! 

And you know, doing a read through of the whole document, I feel a great amount of pride for myself. More so than ever before. I think it reads really well, and I sound like I know what I'm talking about! Ha!  No, but really, I didn't realize how much I truly know about this topic, even after writing so much about it, until it came time to defend. You really do know more than you think you know sometimes!!

So now it's time to do more corrections and get this thing ready to be bound. After that, I'm done! Amen! I'm not going to walk when I graduate, I decided sitting in the heat in black polyester in the middle of the summer wasn't my idea of a good time. I am, however, going to do the graduate hooding ceremony, but I don't know when that is yet. Hopefully, I'll find out soon.  There's still this fear in me that they're going to look at everything I've done and say, "nope, you've got more work to do!" but I felt that way with my undergraduate, too, right up until they gave me the paper that said I was a graduate--or maybe when there was a conferral date on my transcript! I think it'll be that way with this, too. I'm just so proud of myself right now, and though it makes me feel a little bit self-centered, I  simply don't care!

And that's the way it should be!!