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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Fall Rituals: A “New” Year

The New Year is significant in many cultures.  When I lived in Colombia a whole set of rituals accompanied “El Año Nuevo”, including wearing yellow underwear for good luck and walking your suitcase around the block on New Year’s Eve to ensure travel opportunities in the coming year.

Here in North America, the new year is the turn of the calendar year, a time when we traditionally make (and shortly thereafter break) resolutions.  In China, the New Year occurs in late January/early February and traditionally marks a time of celebration, reconciliation, and hope.   Perhaps because I have spent most of my life in schools,  first as a student and then as an educator, my “new year” really begins in September.

I’m not one for resolutions really.  But there’s something about September that invites introspection.  What do I want to accomplish this school year?  That one’s easy – finish the dissertation.  With the cooler weather, it will soon be time to store the bike and kayak.  How will my fitness goals change?   How about work/life balance?  There’s one that eluded me for most of my working life.

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