Sunday, January 09, 2011

For your midnight snacking pleasure: a bit of nostalgia

So it's 12:07 am and that means it's Sunday, and since I don't study on Sundays, that means I'm done with my prelim studying.

Read those last 6 words again, please, and see if they register with you a little more than they register with me as I think, type, and read them.

And also, it's after midnight, as I've already noted, which means that my emotions are a little closer to the surface than usual (no, I'm not crying) (Jer), so humor me while I wax nostalgic here for a minute.

I've been preparing for prelims for almost 2 and a half years now, since September 2008. As first year students my cohort (now my dear, dear friends) and I were warned to start preparing immediately, there was a lot to read. And there was, and we did. We had a very consistent study/reading group that first year. It petered out a bit second year, as we realized we were on different schedules for the actual date of prelims (I'm the last one of that cohort to take them; Arabic classes put me a bit behind in my other coursework), but even this previous semester, when I was the only one still preparing, we have met every couple of weeks and talked about their dissertation proposals and pilots and my prelim prep. They've talked me out of (and into :) ) panic on multiple occasions and been THE. MOST. FABULOUS. supporters and cheerleaders and co-conspirators that a grad student could ask for.

And now my exams start Monday. There will be four 3-hour exams, Mon-Thurs, and then I'll wait for ~2 weeks to find out if I pass or if I have to retake any of the portions (in May).

It's just crazy -- all this time, all this reading, all this trying to understand, to reason, to remember, to put things together in my head, to not doubt my abilities to understand, reason, remember.

The last couple of days, and especially today, I've felt a difference in my reading and reviewing and comprehension. I feel like I FINALLY (only now?! ;) ) understand what I should be looking for as I read a theoretical piece or a research article. I'm finally seeing some of the big pieces in my field and how they fit together. And I feel like--let's just get this prelim thing over with already! :)

And yet with all that is a bit of nostalgia--is this really happening? Is the dread of prelims really going to be a thing of the past in just a few days? Am I really one of those students who does this, who makes it to this point, who TAKES PRELIMS, for goodness sake?? This is a big deal, a big step. It's been pretty emotional to talk to my family and friends about it -- there's so much emotion and insecurity tied up in my confidence in myself, in my fear that I actually CAN'T do big important things or ever be an expert in anything.

When I was taking a little study break earlier I found this, from a post back in 2006 when I was working (and working, and working) on my Master's thesis:
I have realized recently that the good feeling [that I had posted about the day before] is NOT that I am working on my thesis. The good feeling is PROGRESSION. The purpose of my life is NOT to finish this dang thesis, THAT is not why I feel so much better when I work on it. The purpose of life is to PROGRESS. And I have NOT been doing so the last I-refuse-to-admit-how-many months -- I was allowing my thesis-writing, or lack thereof, to be exact, to hold me back, to "damn," or "dam," my forward progress. But [...] I have broken through that "wall" and can now move forward. And right now, moving forward means getting the thesis done. Here I go!
I think that's part of what I'm feeling now -- this is the next step for me, it's progression, and it is scary, but good. And I'm happy that I'm doing it. :)

So it's really interesting to be here, now, to feel like, for better or for worse, I'm taking prelims the day, and people? I'm ready. (And fine, now I'm crying. :P) I don't know everything, but I know quite a bit of "stuff," and I hope and pray it's enough, and deep down I feel like it is. It's still scary--they may, they probably will!, ask me something that I really have to dig and stretch to be able to say anything about, but I'll write something, and I'll turn it in, will go on. And maybe in a few weeks I'll wonder what the big deal was. Maybe. ;)

And I haven't cleaned this up yet:

But hey, it's past midnight (did I say that already?) and I'm going to bed.

Besides, I'm not quite ready to say good-bye yet.


Nathan and Sarah said...

You are amazing! I have no doubts that you will do great this next week. Congratulations!

Mrs. M said...

These are days to remember! Wishing you much rest, peace, and clarity of thought in the days to come. And sending hugs!

helgaruth said...

I have no doubts that you have many layers of expertise. I hope though that you also succeed in this field you've chosen (which I haven't quite figured out trying to read between the lines). Best of luck though, on these prelims. You are an amazing woman on so many levels and I have great faith in your abilities - just keep swimming...just keep swimming...

kate said...

Hey Marge!

I was thinking about you this last week and wondering how you were doing on your prelims. :) Hope things went well.

oh just ehu. said...

Margaret, I think you're awesome! I look up to you! No, not just physically....but in so many ways. I'm so glad you came into my life.