The light at the end of the tunnel

The unthinkable has happened.  I have completed a draft of the dissertation!  I spent 13 sodding hours on it last weekend when I was exhausted and spent a good part of the week since in a bit of a haze.  However, I largely finished it last weekend and I have, since, tweaked the last section so I am pretty happy with it.  The only thing left to do is write an introduction but I can’t quite fact that yet.  I don’t have to hand it in until 6th September so I will get on with it next week and have a bit of a rest this weekend.  I was pretty dazed and confused by the very near completion of my task.  It was a strange thing.  It is a very emotional thing for me too, studying for this MA means so many things to me over and above the obvious academic pursuit.  The prospect of finishing my dissertation and submitting it is an emotional one for me.  Last weekend, however, I was just shellshocked.  Amazed I had come so far and absolutely, unbelievably tired yet also buzzing with excitement.  I had to get out of the house to try and shake off the weird spaced out feeling.

When I look back I can hardly believe how much I have changed over the course of my studies.  My confidence has increased no end.  I can hardly believe that I have had ideas about stuff and managed to write several assignments on my subject of choice.  I can’t quite believe I have managed to keep up the studying alongside my job.  I am so proud of myself for giving myself the chance to have a go at the MA and for not running away when it got really difficult.  I am really impressed that I have managed to finish my draft of the dissertation with a couple of weeks for proof reading.  Since when did I become that responsible?!?  I have made my peace with not being a spectacular scholar and not wanting to follow all the academic conventions.  I have found my own writing style, my own way of expressing myself and my own interests and that is really exciting.  I am not sure this is really me any more – when did I learn to do all this stuff?  I know I will read through my dissertation in a few months time and slightly have trouble believing that I really wrote it.  I won’t quite recognise myself in it.

I was talking to a friend about this tendency to not recognise myself in my work  or in various aspects of my life as I look back at my achievements.  I know, obviously, that I have done/achieved these things, but sometimes it surprises me more than any one that I did them.  This recurring sense of surprise at who I am and what I have done is part of the feeling behind the title of this blog.   She suggests it is something to do with compartmentalising ourselves – as she puts it “Any one who knows you from going out for a drink with you on a Friday night would not recognise you in this [my academic work] and any one who reads this would not believe what you are like on a Friday night”.  Its an interesting idea, and we have both talked about how we recognise in ourselves that we are quite different people in different situations and contexts.  I also think that, as I look back at things I have done in the past I am looking at them from a different perspective and as a different person.  One of the reasons I write so much (I have scores of notebooks and journals at home that I fill with random stuff) is that I find it really useful to have a reference back to what I was thinking/writing in another time.  I forget just how much things change for me over the course of even a short space of time (e.g. 6 months or a year).  Its really easy to forget all the inbetween steps and the journey taken to get to the point where you are right now, but it is really useful to remember sometimes.

Anyhow, I want to go and enjoy doing all sorts of mundane things that I don’t usually have time for.  Like going food shopping and not having a time limit on it, choosing a cake to bake and then doing so, sitting and reading fiction just for fun and (very importantly) telephoning my Mum who I haven’t spoken to for 2 weeks now.  Hurrah for free time!