Friday, June 03, 2005

Well, that could have gone better

The defence of my first general's paper was May 12. It was horrifying in a way only academia can be. The gorey details of the experience are best not committed to the annals of electronic publishing, lest they be archived forever by some well-meaning web-crawler.

I am reminded by my unfortunate tendency for perfect recall of the mundane that May 12 is the birthday of a dear grade school-through-high school friend who I lost touch with after she got married in 1994. Due to a number of events - the biggest of which was that I was 6 hours away at university - I did not go to her wedding. I felt horribly guilty for not going, and sometimes I still do. We last spoke a couple days before the wedding, when I called her to let her know I couldn't come. We hung up on the best of terms, as always, and I told her I'd call her the next time I came home. That was 11 years ago. I miss her.

May 12 has historically been a strange day for me. Sometimes very bad, sometimes very good. For instance, it is also the date (in 1993) that I first talked to the man who is now my husband. Coincidence? Perhaps.

Maybe I'm reading too much into it. But I figure that at any rate, by now, I should know better than to schedule important things on May 12. So, OK, that was a miss on my part.

I'm finally past the irrational, screaming, witch-queen anger phase, and I no longer begin to cry in frustration when I open up the directory where the electronic files for the paper reside. So I think I can finally begin making the (not minor) revisions that were requested, once I figure out exactly what those requests meant. That will involve a meeting (or three) with a few different people. I continue to remind myself that this is a learning experience. It will be a better paper for my having more time with it. And if I keep telling myself that long enough, I might just begin to believe it. In the interest of letting go of my anger, I'll leave out the reasons - some rationally justified, others based entirely on hurt pride - exactly WHY I was so upset.

The whole process of academic writing is so degrading. You pour everything you have into a work for the express purpose of seeking approval from a group of people whose job it is to sit across from you and rip you down, throwing questions at you that they KNOW you will not be able to answer. And it never ends, not once you finish your dissertation and get a job, not once your name is known in the field. If you present at conferences or submit to academic journals, it's the same thing again and again. It's pathetic, really. And it's not supposed to be personal, yet it is. Masochists, all.

And what I really want to know is: If I can't handle this kind of reaction to a paper, how in hell do I intend to survive a dissertation defence? It's times like these when the overused phrase "Is it worth it?" keeps popping up. And I can't answer that question, either.

I think too much.

And I think there is a lack of ice cream in my world this evening.

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