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Diss-cembering to the End

Okay, I am actually feeling like Frodo, except for not standing on Mount Doom and being totally wrecked by an evil power. I am actually feeling like Frodo, sitting at my desk, enjoying some Christmas cookies, tea and writing this blog post, next to the wonderful Christmas tree I decorated with my dad.

So, I am just sitting at my desk, in front of my PC, listening to music and surfing the internet. Two books are lying next to me: one mystery novel to relax my mind and “The professor is in” by Karen Kelsky (for more info see her website!).

Well, I am almost done with graduate school – you know why? The Frodo-feeling I have is actually caused by my sending my thesis and my catalogue to my supervisors the day before Christmas.
So… actually, I am waiting now for their opinions. I have time for my corrections and revisions in January – and I can reach my goal of submitting my thesis in February. If you remember my first Diss-cember post, I actually planned to sent my text by end of December or the beginning of January, but now I am two weeks in front of my schedule and I am so relieved… well: I feel you, Frodo!

It was not easy to sent my thesis to my supervisors. I always panic in front of the sent-button. And I admit it, I had my mum on the phone – the only human being with the perfect ability to calm me down (next to my love, who empowered me with choclate before going to work). This is what I meant with asking people you love for help during the time of finishing your thesis. There were several occasions in the last four weeks where I stopped working in the evening, perfectly relaxed and proud of what I did that day – only to start crying or shaking nervously few minutes after going to bed.
These were no attacks of panic or fear, just signs of my stress level. My brain literally could not stand the pressure, so movement and tears were necessary for my balance. I acted like a maniac, but I know that a lot of people did so, even some of my peers told me not to worry – we are all mad when it comes to submitting your PhD thesis.

I had and I am still having a lovely Christmas break. I was in desperate need of this break, to be honest. I  have a little cold, I am constantly tired and I am not doing anything at all except for sleeping, eating and reading funny stuff I want to read. And I am not even thinking about my thesis. There is no need. To cite the last line of Harry Potter: All was well.

There was no reason to check it again for mistakes or filling in new literature quotes or for re-phrasing certain parts. There may be need to check it again and do corrections and revisions, but I am not able to do them now without the help of my supervisors; there are some points we have to discuss again, we all know this. I have collected my arguments and I have written them down and I liked it. Really.

Remember: A good dissertation is a done dissertation.
So, I am done, and I am eager to reset my brain for the corrections to be done soon, for I will be back at my work on Thursday. But that is okay, I can scroll over my things I have to do in January and I have two days to write a new plan for corrections and do some proof-reading before hitting the last miles of PhD-road again.

I thought it would be very hard for me to let all my thesis stuff be all this time after Christmas until the New Year will catch me in my cosy reindeer socks and cuddled on my couch watching Christmas movies. Actually, it was nothing near hard or stressful.
I made it clear to myself on the evening of the 23rd – I have done the best work I was able to do, I have written down all my good and precise arguments, I am sure that there are not too many nasty misspellings in my text (yeah, I grew really blind on them, I am sorry) and I was really brave for standing up against that enormous workload and getting all my sh*t done the way I wanted it. And I was able to let go an hit the sent button.

I am still too tired and exhausted to figure out how all that worked so well, but everything is good and I am concentrating on my health and my sleeping rhythm to re-collect my strength.

So, shoutout to all my dear writing buddies who are working on their thesis right now, or are thinking really hard about how to get back to work after Christmas break. The silver lining is real and the end is near. You can do it!

Enjoy the last days of 2019 and I wish you all the best for 2020 – make it your year, make your dreams come true!

Astrid 🙂

How to Diss-cember without losing your mind…

This is it. This is the last month of my intensive writing bootcamp to finish my dissertation. That was the reason why you have not seen any posts from me recently… I was busy. Busy with writing, reading, writing, planning my writing, … and nearly lost my mind on it.

The last phase of your PhD is the most exhaustive one in you career, trust me on that.

Oh, and it is December already, so, I have to get all my Christmas presents for my loved ones as well, next to finishing that dissertation.

But December also means candles, cookies, lights and it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas – and yes, I admit it, I LOVE that time of the year. The play on words “Diss-cember” is not that new, I know, but it totally seemd accurate for the first sunday in Advent. I even picked a nice image with a candle to provide you with some seasonal flair. 🙂 I hope you like it.

Here comes my list of how not to lose my mind – I hope it will help you, too:

  1. Make a plan.
    Okay, yeah, this is the most obvious thing, I guess.
  2. Stick to it, but be gentle with yourself.
    Allow yourself to miss some of your own deadlines. Calculate enough time spots for breaks. After all, you have to take good care of yourself, because you cannot afford to drop out for days or weeks beacuse of getting sick or ill or whatever stress can do to your body and mind.
  3. Ask for help and tell your friends about your last phase of writing.
    You may need some eyes to get through your text, doing corrections. I am just saying… I, myself, am perfectly unable to see my mistakes, and I want to thank all my dear test readers on this occasion for helping me with my corrections and revisions.
  4. Reward yourself when you finished a task or a bullet on your huge to-do-list. And YES, you have time for that, because you have your plan, right? 😉
  5. It’s allowed to shout, cry and being frustrated. This is actually called soul hygiene. It is allowed to say that you want to f*ck all this sh*t. Really, without such little controlled breakdowns you will harm yourself. I have them at least three times a week. If you are not working with Microsoft Word, there might be less occasions. 🙂 Sorry, not sorry.
  6. Celebrate your good days – good days are days where you get a lot of stuff done and can relax in the evening.
    This is also an opportunity to reward yourself with some self-care-stuff like watching a movie with a huge mug of hot chocolate on your couch. It is as simple as that. And it is so important, because you have to enjoy this feeling of being satisfied with your work.
  7. Be actually satisfied with your work.
    Yes, I know, I am a perfectionist myself and I am never ready to submit a paper, even if I had the time to review it at least three times. Therefore, tell one person about your good work and tell them that you need help to enjoy the feeling, too. Really, try it.
  8. Get fresh air and do some physical training.
    You need your body to be trained – and yes, just take a walk around the block, it’s 10 important minutes to get your mind clear again.
I am buried with books, in the middle of revisions and quotations still to check and verify, half through my writing plan, and highly desperate for the Christmas cookie season to start. (image: Pixabay)

Until now, everything just worked out fine for me. I try to keep moving, I try to stick to my plan and I try to be at least proud of me by doing so. Yes, the last thing is the actual hard work to do. I could spent another year on doing research, on writing, on reading, but: A good dissertation is a done dissertation.

There is a silver lining: I plan to submit my thesis in february at last. I am still good in time, I planned even a nice Christmas break and I am pretty sure to get enough work done to actually enjoy it without any bad conscience. 😉 And soon, I will have finished my good dissertation!

So, I am sorry that you have not heard from me and that I had no time to do any posts, but I guess you can forgive me. 😀

Have a very nice and not too stressful December, enjoy picking your presents for your loved ones, eat a lot of cookies and do not forget to celebrate the important things in life.

Stay tuned, dear fighters of academia!

See y’all,

Astrid

R you ready for archaeological data?

Since I am trying to work myself into the use of programming with R and accomplishing my data analysis with this tool, I have struggled more than one time with the way of thinking “programmer-style”. As trained archaeologist I have practically no idea of the thoughts and ways to work with code.

You may know that really old joke when a programmer gets to do the food shopping and you tell him “Bring one package of milk, if they have eggs, bring 10.” So, the happy noob will head to the market and get one package of milk and 10 eggs. Programmers are used to a different kind of thinking – so they will bring you 10 packages of milk, because they see the condition for it: They have eggs in the store.

I am so grateful that there are no loops necessary in R programming. I tried it once for a course in C++ and it was… well, a decent catastrophe, but still, a catastrophe. I gave up in the end, after hearing most of my tech colleagues saying that an archaeologist has no need for programming. I might have answered that tech people have no need for history, and guess what, some of them really believe that. Because computer science is a modern thing. I did not tell them about the long history of cumputer science – that maths actually was a subject for women, because all man had to be philosophers. History is full of fun facts, my dear hardcore-tech-people, maybe you would like to try it sometime. (Forgive me the bitterness).

I still have to work and think hard on the analysis I want to do. I am not just heading for a simple quantitative analysis, I want to discover certain patterns of motiv combinations, considering the different samples of different temples and other finding spots – just naming one example of the questions I have for my data.

But, again, I had to start at the beginning, meaning cleaning my data. I had to think about naming my categories, about the facts I want to analyse. So, I once again found myself cursing my ex-computer science teacher at school, because we were girls and all he explained to us is not considered necessary knowledge for compter science at all. Well, if you call powerpoint and MS Word computer science, yes, we did that. It was back in the year 2005 and I am a victim of gender-biased teaching, I am afraid to say so. I am a girl, I am so talented in languages, and so interested in Latin, ergo I do not need any kind of technical knowledge. Or stuff like computer science, chemistry, physics, etc. Actually, I always thought, I am too dumb to do stuff like programming scripts for data analysis. Guess what – they made me believe that I am more talented to do other stuff like history and Latin. Maybe that is even true, but how can anybody be too dumb to use certain tools and methods for his or her work? It took me a  long time to figure this out.

I cannot imagine doing anything different than I am doing now – I love my job. I am used to people looking at me in a very bewildered wax, because I tend to say things like “I am not interested in people as long as they have not been dead for at least a 1500 years” and stuff like that. They are wondering why I am working with things like GIS and SFM and now programming languages, because old and dead stuff means… I don’t know, maybe they think, we are still using stone tablets to write on. A lot of people are very fast to ask questions like “Why would you need to learn computer science stuff? Why do you need geoinformation systems, I thought, you are analysing stones?”

I have stopped being angry about these kinds of questions. If some poeple cannot understand your way of working, then you have to do it anyway and maybe in the end they will get your intention when seeing the results. I figured out how to use R for an analysis of two categorial variables – meaning, I can show you now the distribution of motifs on the right and left side of stone altars in my geographical area of investigation.

Well, for a first try it does not look that bad… And there is more to come.

I have not found out everything yet – there is still a lot to do with the layout etc., but I have now found a way of basic understanding my data and a basic way of working with it.

I will present charts like that in my thesis and I love doing so. I will work on my 3D-skills and I will keep on trying new things with GIS software, no matter what.

I am doing all that stuff in my own way: When I have time, when I have my head free for this kind of task. Individualism is one great challenge when you are an archaeologist. Idealism is one mightier challenge and it is hitting me hard sometimes. But hey, I guess, I like it. More than I used to do.

R you ready for something new?

Stay fierce, dear fighters of academia – yours, Astrid 🙂