Diss-cember 2020 – The Good, the Mad and the Triumph
You all may remember my posts from last year on the topic “Diss-cembering” – a word play on “Dissertation” and “December” (How to Diss-cember and Diss-cembering to the End). In December 2019 I finished my frist draft of my thesis and I sent it to my advisor. In January 2020 I got his suggestions back and I had to deal with that a lot. I was so vulnerable and mentally exhausted, after three years of working on this thing. At first, I was devastated, because he had a lot to point out – a lot of negative things. There were actually tears at home, in secrecy, because I felt so ashamed and overwhelmed about it. So, I sought advice and support at my friends’ office, and over a good cup of coffee and a huge bar of chocolate, I calmed down and decided to just breath and relax for another week and then, I would go into the next fight for my PhD.
Lessons learnt at this episode of thesis writing:
- YOU. NEED. SUPPORT. Meaning you need people to call in emergencies, in the middle of the night. People, who will cheer for you, who will fight for you, who will never let you down. Who will listen to you, bring you coffee/chocolate/alcohol, who will be honest with you. Family and friends. Your loved ones. Colleagues and advisors.
- It is perfectly fine to disappear in the so-called blanket cave. I needed time to think. I watched my favorite movies, I listened to good music, I spent a lot of time with my family and I re-collected my strength. I fell down. I gave myself time, I sorted things out, I prepared for – well, overdramatic – battle. But, hell yeah, academia is sometimes a battlefield.
- I started with those things I can do best: In my case, planning and thinking about a good working structure for my revisions and corrections. And before getting calm again, you are perfectly well allowed to cry, to scream … Let the bad things go to hell properly.
I began the #100DaysofDissertation-Challenge (see also the result of this motivational experiment), and I managed to submit my thesis by the end of May. But wait, 5 months (!) for corrections?! Uh, well, folks, I actually started a new job in April, so I did a lot of preparation for this one in February and March. You can read about this crazy journey in my Bamberg Chronicles (part I and part II). This job was really a good thing – I felt suddenly so capeable, it pushed my confidence and my motivation.
As you all well know, the panemic happening around us caused a lot of death, fear, insecurity – and it flipped the whole style of university teaching as well. The whole world changed. I was suddenly confronted with the issue to design online-classes, without any idea of how to do that properly. But again, stay calm, think about your strength, re-focus and: Go!
It worked out better than I thought. Of course, I am new to this whole teaching world. My students think I am somehow mad, because I let them read classical sources and doing short research on theses texts, before they are allowed to work on their presentations. Let’s put it like this: I made myself known as a very strict lecturer. (You can read about some of my experieces with online/distance teaching here.) Which is funny, because I am really struggling with grading…
Lessons learnt at this episode of beginning a new adventure:
- I really enjoy organizing and putting together materials for my lectures. More than I have thought, actually. My superpower concerning teaching is: I am not a student any more, but I can remember – remember well. All the bad stuff. All the boring teachers. But: I remember the good teachers, too. The funny lectures, the interesting trips, all the positive vibes, the action and all the things to learn. I definitely want to be a good researcher and a good teacher. New goal: Check.
- I have the opportunity to influence students, to wake up their curiosity. I can actually move someone to dig deeper. That’s a really great aspect, I think.
- No matter how bad my knowledge (in my imposter-driven mind) is, it is better than the knowledge of my students. And if I am preparing myself properly than it will work out just fine. And now, I am conscious of those things I do not know. And I know how to fill the holes. 😉
I had my final exam, the defensio of my thesis, at the beginning of December 2020. My thesis was graded with the highest grade possible, as was my defensio. And it feels really good, I cannot tell you, how good this feels.
The year was hard and crazy. Most of my loved ones stayed healthy, and those who got infected, just suffered from very light symptoms. We made it through this year quite well and I am so greatful for that. So, even a crazy year like this could teach me something – or at least, it proved my great-grandma and my great-aunt to be absolutely right:
- Even the bad days have 24 hours and they will pass. (And everytime I say this to myself, I hate it, but it is true.)
- Pasta makes you happy. (I am socialized in a somehow Italian way of life, at least when it comes down to eating and drinking. Sometimes all you need is a good meal to pull together your body and soul and to move on.)
I accomplished oustanding things this year: I submitted my thesis. I got a new job, at a university in Germany, (far) away from home. I am now officially #PhDone. I am no student anymore. Still feels weird, though. And scary.
I did it. And I am so damn proud of myself and I intend to protect this feeling somewhere in my memories. Just in case. If there are bad days coming, I can look back to the days I started. The days I struggled. The days I thought about giving up. And the days I realised that I just got a little bit closer to my goal.
So, Diss-cember 2020 is more about reflecting and realising all the things that have happened this year. And to give you all those lessons learned and all the thoughts behind them in a very short way. I hope to get your motivation up and running. I hope to inspire, to encourage you. Yes, it’ hard. But it is definitely worth it.
So, I wish you a good time in this beloved season of the year. Stay safe and stay healthy.