Chasing the Heffalump

Photo Courtesy of the Walt Disney Company

This post is a little late, but I feel like it’s still important to share…

After the comps extravaganza, I became a candidate.  I felt flustered and happy.  I felt a little bit like this.  However, knowing the dangerous chasm that lies between accomplishment and satisfaction (or, rather, resting on one’s laurels), my advisor and I had a meeting almost immediately to start planning next steps.  Don’t get me wrong, there was a little happy dance of celebration.  But, “student” to “candidacy” means that I have hit the stage where dissertation will be the sole focus.  It is a milestone, not an endpoint to the journey.

In that meeting, we discussed many things: timeline, logistics, and the next steps in firming up a dissertation committee.  We also discussed the need for self-motivation and the huge swing in self-efficacy that must take place in order to keep yourself on deadline when no one external is assigning due dates. To sum up the sometimes intangible nature of the dissertation, my advisor compared the process to Winnie the Pooh chasing the Heffalump: a process filled with mystery, some hysterics, misperceptions, and ambiguity.  You have to have faith that the Heffalump exists, and moreover, be persistent in your pursuit.

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Recharging when getting away is not an option

sign at swap meet indicating facilities closed till October

“Swap Meet” image cc license from Flickr user LukeJNovak: http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2715/4030129420_ece87539ce_b.jpg

I remember when I used to look forward to summer — warmer weather, longer days, no homework, family vacations and time with friends. Even when I started working during the summer breaks, there seemed to still remain ample time to read and relax after work was done in those long months between school terms. Even when I had summer school, it would last only a fraction of the whole holiday period, leaving weeks to relax and recharge.

Now, I look forward to summer for some of the same reasons — the warmer weather and longer days — and some new ones — travel takes a bit less time without the traffic of parents driving children to school and fewer colleagues in the office means a slightly lighter load of internal requests.

Although I miss the family vacations, the biggest loss in the transition from school to work was the chance to decompress and relax that those summer months offered.  That time was fairly sacred and it was unlikely it would be scheduled over or co-opted by classes or meetings; one would dread catching a summer cold that seemed to suck up those valuable days of summer holidays, but never thought about a time in the future when unexpected work events or deadlines would force retraction of vacation days and a premature return to work.

As I cannot take off the several months I dream of to rest and relax during the summer, I’ve been trying to take advantage of the “Five Ways to Recharge During the Summer” recommended by Jamie Corcoran in her June post at Gradhacker.   Read the rest of this entry »