Dissertation Zen

Think back to when you started your doctoral program.  If you had to do it all over again, would you do it?  Would you advise others to do it?  I quit after three years, and I’m re-enrolled against a clock that expires in just five weeks.  Then I will write a letter explaining why I need an extension. zen-stories-620x315

When I quit, I couldn’t stomach so much as the sight of my school’s website. After a topic change and a coach that encourages me weekly, I have learned dissertation Zen and improved my disposition.

Courage.  After telling everyone that I would never go back to school and what a cluster the dissertation process is, I ate my words.  Putting my ego aside took a lot of courage, as did heading back into the mire.

Humility.  I thought I was smart and could do what I needed to for myself.  During this process, I have met true scholars that I admire for their pure dedication to expanding knowledge.  Asking for help is humbling for me, but I have learned to ask, not ever argue, and be grateful.

Patience.  The first time I was writing my dissertation, I frequently felt annoyed about committee rotations or research debates. These days, I am happy to have a supportive Chair and trust that his comments will arrive at just the right time.  If I don’t finish on my summer deadline, in the scheme of things, we’re not talking life or death…. I can try to blame someone, but that is wasting more time.  I’m so happy for that lesson.

Serenity.  The serenity prayer is not just for alcoholics.  Accepting the things I cannot change, like the amount of time a new draft takes to get approved, brings peace.  The courage to change the things I can has come much easier with simple, clear direction from a good Chair.  As for wisdom, that is always a work in process, just like the dissertation.

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