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A Year of Writing and Life Changes

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The last time I posted on this blog was right after my dissertation defense. It should be no surprise that after that, I went on a bit of a writing hiatus. I finished my dissertation revisions, revised another journal article that had an Aug 30 deadline, and then… that’s it.

The last few months have been full of life changes. I sold my favorite house in West Michigan and moved across the state to the Detroit-area, leaving friends and family behind. I started a new job as an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan-Flint. I am teaching new classes to new students and a new place in a new city. It was a lot of sensory overload and my writing fell by the wayside.

Now that my first semester is wrapping up and we’re facing a new year, I am starting to get into the groove of my new life and back into writing. This blog has a new focus–it’s going to be about all of my writing projects as opposed to just the big dissertation one. I still am going to blog about my writing process, but hopefully it’ll be more comprehensive that my dissertation musings. “The” year of writing becomes “A” year of writing, as I’m going to check in with yearly writing goals here too.

I am getting settled in. Time to grab a (metaphorical) pen.

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A new focus

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Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the day I quit my job at NHA. I started this blog just a few days later, to mark the beginning of what I had expected to be  crazy year, full of uncertainty but also accomplishment and excitement. I was not disappointed with this year by any means. I did accomplish quite a bit, including proposing, collecting data for, writing, and defending my dissertation. I also taught 4 different classes to nearly 100 different students. I traveled the world and the US– to Germany, Austria, Hungary and to Hawaii, Seattle, and San Diego.

My year has been full of uncertainty at times. I often stressed about whether I was making the right decisions with writing, teaching, or life in general. There were times when I was positive I had made all of the wrong decisions, and times when I felt like everything was falling into place. This will be a topic for another blog post soon, but more uncertain times are ahead, along with more times of accomplishment and excitement. Ultimately, I don’t regret the reason why I started this blog in the first place–quitting NHA.  As I said in my first blog post, I will never forget what NHA did for me to develop my professional career, but leaving there was the best decision I ever made. Now that I’ve had a year of hindsight, I can safely say that working without a net this year was good for me. It was nerve-wracking at times, but ultimately worth it.

I called this year and this blog “The Year of Writing.”  But now what? This blog was about my dissertation journey, and the year of working without a net, but now that year is over.  I think this blog needs a new focus, and possibly a new name. I know that every year of my life will be a year of writing, so should I change the “the” to an “a?” Should I blog about my future projects? Or abandon this all together? I am still unsure of what to do next.

I went out last night to celebrate things– graduation, Mike’s birthday, him finishing the Riverbank Run, the end of a rough semester and the beginning of a great summer of relaxation ahead. We went to our first bar for dinner, and once we were seated, I looked up and saw this sign:

one adventure

 

I thought this was so fitting for what we were doing there in the first place. Maybe my year of writing (and therefore this blog) has to end so another great adventure can begin? I know I have at least one more blog post left in me, but I might need to find a renewed focus to mark the next great adventure…

The big day is here!

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That’s the what the little counter on the side of this blog says: The big day is here! The countdown to my dissertation defense is over. Yesterday, I officially became a Doctor!

The defense went well I thought. Everything is always bigger in my mind than it is in real life, and this was no exception. I prepared a 25 minute presentation about my study that I tried to cut down to 20-22 minutes each time I practiced it. Anne-Lise wanted me to keep it to 20, so I was trying to be brief and not go into too much detail. I wanted to leave something for them to ask me about. I practiced it a bunch out loud to myself, to my cat, to Mike.  My defense started at 2, and by 1:00 I was restless and ready. Mike & I had driven to campus and I tried to do normal things to keep my mind off it– ran errands around Erickson, checked my email while eating lunch in my office, etc.

In addition to my committee, some colleagues and friends of mine were also there– Gerardo, Yuhan, and Sally. Mike was obviously there too. There was a funny moment when the committee told Mike he could ask questions at the end. He replied, “I will be keeping quiet.”

I started in on my presentation and almost immediately Anne Lise motioned to me that I was talking very fast. At that point, I stopped caring about the 20-25 minute time limit and just talked. Then, it was question time… I didn’t get any questions that I wasn’t expecting, and sometimes the questions were mostly comments about things I could revise. Every person preceded their comments with kinds words about the work I did on the study, which made me feel good. Everyone took their roles:

Cheryl had comments for me that were about the One Hen unit and about what I could do to write about it. She kept referring to idea for future writing, not necessarily revisions. Like, “When you publish articles on this…” etc. Peter had sent me his questions that morning, which was so nice. I had worked on some possible answers on the car ride over. Sure enough, every time he went to ask me a question I knew exactly what I would say. Kyle commented on the things in my paper that I knew he would comment on. At one point, he talked for a long time about Chapter 5 and then said, “Would you like to comment on that?” I was ready for his criticism this time, but it was also very helpful to hear it. Anne-Lise helped me with answers when she felt I needed it. It was strange, but as we were all talking I got NEW ideas about different angles to examine this experience and ideas about different pieces I could write about these data. That’s how I knew it was going well. It felt inspiring to chat about the study with all of them. It felt like the beginning, not the end.

I could help but yell in excitement when Anne-Lise came out of their deliberations to tell me congratulations. After that, it was a whirlwind of hugs, signing forms, and Anne-Lise telling me we would talk later about revisions. After they all left, Mike & I just hugged each other, alone in room 116A. We were both a bit teary-eyed. I have had 4 defenses in that room over 5 years–practicum defense, dissertation proposal defense, ANOTHER dissertation proposal defense, and then this one. After each of the others, I left feeling the weight of all of the work I had left to do, and to be honest, feeling the weight that I still hadn’t quite gotten it right. This time, I felt light as a feather.

We had a mini-celebration with Danny, who defended his dissertation right before mine, up in his advisor’s office. It was nice to cram in there with my friends and toast to our success. Then, we all went to El Azteco and split a few pitchers of margaritas. A last hurrah with my MSU crew. I’m not sure when we’ll all be together on the same day again, sadly.

defense celebration

 

I am writing this blog post the day after the defense, and I have to admit it feels a bit weird to not have anything to have to do tonight. Or tomorrow. I can take some time, but then I need to contemplate my next move. The big day was here…and now it’s gone.

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