I heard recently that ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ was the number one song on Spotify this year.* Encountering that unsurprising fact must have moved the phrase onto the tip of my tongue because I found myself using it later in the day to explain why I couldn’t answer a simple question about my own thesis from one of my students. The question that stumped me? What was the title of your thesis, Rachael? I was eventually able to recall the proper title, but I stumbled over a number of inaccurate versions first. I was mildly embarrassed, of course, but mostly I was just amazed. In less than 10 years, my thesis had gone from being my everything to being, well, ‘somebody that I used to know’. My students were tolerant, as always, but I wasn’t sure they really believed me. Which makes sense. When I was in their place, I wasn’t even sure I could finish the wretched thing, let alone finish and then forget about it. Perhaps if you find yourself in the thick of things, unable to see a clear path to completion, it may help to imagine that someday you may not even remember what it was called!
While I was still thinking about this diminishing importance of our theses over time, I read a post on The Thesis Whisperer from Ben from Literature Review HQ. In this post, Ben reflects on his post-graduation case of Stockholm Syndrome. He knows he should be glad to have his thesis behind him—and, of course, is glad to have it behind him—but still feels a bit bereft. While that sense of loss is inevitable, Ben has the exact right response: he figures out what was good about the process that can now inform his new post-thesis working life. There is a great deal of intellectual struggle and psychological pain in the thesis writing process, but there is also a unique degree of freedom. That freedom can be an opportunity to learn about ourselves and how we can optimally organize our professional lives.
* If you hate this song, ask yourself if you really hate it or if you hate it the way the guys in the car hate it.
Recent links from @explorstyle on Twitter
From the Lingua Franca blog, Lucy Ferriss on the rhetorical impact of using ‘we’.
From @ThomsonPat, an explanation of the metacommentary we use to frame our own contributions to the conversation.
ThomsonPat, an interesting breakdown of the many complex tasks involved in reviewing the literature.
From Inside Higher Ed, the final instalment of Kerry Ann Rockquemore’s excellent series on academics and perfectionism.
From @ThomsonPat, interesting reflections on the way blogging readily disrupts any dichotomy between work and leisure.
Do you need another way to distract yourself from academic writing?
Can a humanities PhD be done in five years? Inside Higher Ed discusses a new proposal at Stanford.
From Inside Higher Ed, a helpful discussion of a commonly asked question: how to cite our own work at various stages of completion.
From the New York Times, a fun post on what life is really like for lexicographers: Lies! Murder! Lexicography!