Thursday, December 29, 2005

Can you believe they gave me a Ph.D.?

Unbelievable. I still don't think it's hit me. So much has happened. I feel dazed. Jason came back from visiting his folks in Wisconsin just in time for me to get a few nights of well-deserved rest. My parents and sister flew in the day before the big day. I was starting to get a little nervous. I practiced and practiced....and practiced my talk the more nervous I got to calm myself down. We went out to dinner and had champagne. All I could think about was how nervous I was.

The next day came. The day I had been waiting for to arrive for months was finally here. How did that happen? My defense wasn't until 2 p.m....lots of time to get ancy. I woke up and tidied up the apartment (I had been doing a lot of organizing--my way of defusing stress), practiced my talk, and tried to eat. I showered, beautified and put on my suit (I love my suit--it's awesome) after much deliberation about which blouse to wear. I was so nervous at this point, I couldn't breathe. I decided to go to presentation room at school...NOW.

It was about 1:15 when I arrived. I was all nerves and butterflies. I hooked up my computer, closed the shades, checked the thermostats, my slides, the lights, the lazer pointer, attachments to the computer, made sure my coat was neatly folded; then I checked everything again. Went to the bathroom. Made sure I had a water bottle on the podium within easy access.

My parents arrived first. They kept taking pictures and asking questions. I could barely talk. People started arriving. I selected a chair to sit in and practiced deep breathing exercises. My P.I. sat next to me and gave me an encouraging smile. She asked if I was ready. I nodded and said, "Yes," faking confidence.

The fake confidence thing helped. All of a sudden, all my nervousness disappeared. It was time to deliver, to do my job. I could do this. I would get through it. She introduced me but I don't remember what she said. I know it was very flattering. Then, I got up, walked up to the podium in an eerily calm manner, dimmed the lights...and began.

It went very smoothly. I don't even think I was in my body. I made eye contact with everyone. I didn't feel like myself. I was this calm, collected person in total control of everything going on in the room. Afterwards, everyone clapped very warmly. Some people asked a few questions...nothing too difficult, and then everyone left so the private defense could begin.

By this point, I was tired, relaxed and ready to be done. The questions my committee asked were hard. Mostly because they were vague, abstract, speculative questions that I had a hard time with because I didn't understand what they were asking. I did the best I could although I do feel it could have gone a little bit more smoothly. But, in retrospect, their questions were sometimes a bit ridiculous; I think I actually did a pretty good job. The whole time, I was a bit frustrated. I kept thinking, "Are we done yet?" Silly, I know. After only 30 minutes, they let me go, closed the door, signed the form that said I had graduated, and opened it 5 minutes later to shake my hand and congratulate me.

All my friends and family congratulated me and there was quite a bit of champagne, dining, and celebrating afterwards. It was so nice to feel so supported. That was the best part. People keep asking how it feels now that it's over. How does it feel to have a Ph.D.? I have to say, it's not very different. I guess it was sort of anti-climatic afterwards and I'm not really sure why. I think I'm still a bit numb. Maybe it hasn't hit me. I know I'm tired and still recouperating. I think it's nice because it gave me a little bit of confidence so when something gets tough, I use a problem-solving approach and think, "Hey. I have a Ph.D. I can figure this out. It's kind of like having a "magic feather." Remember Dumbo? Honestly, though, I think the best part was looking into my mom and dad's faces and seeing their proud, wide smiling faces. I didn't prepare myself for that. They were SO proud, and that was the highlight of the whole defense. There's nothing in comparison to making your parents proud.

4 comments:

G-Man said...

Congratulations! I busted my ass getting a Masters Degree, so I can imagine how exhausted and elated you must be having slugged your way to the top of the degree heap. But never let a degree make you forget who you are and why people love you.
I do hope you take a break from the madness and have some fun. God knows you deserve some!

chris said...

Amazing! Simply amazing! Your parents should be proud of you. I am proud of you and I only know you through your blog. How weird is that?! :)

Take that Ph.D. and make the world a better place. Take a little break first, though.

Congratulations again!

Mon said...

Woo hoo! Congrats!!!!

Kevin said...

Congratulations Dr. Rachel...I look forward to one day finaly being done with it all!!