D-Day Approaches

Seventeen days until I defend The Document.  Not that I’m counting (at least not until someone reminds me, which only happens once every two days).  Assuming that the defense is successful, I am looking at the bright light at the end of the tunnel.  Or at least a dim light.

Today I received the email reminding doctoral students to register for the Spring term and I realized that for the first time in a very long time I will rescind my student status at the end of December.  I should feel excited as a new adventure begins and yet I’m feeling a bit lost.

I always thought that when I finished my PhD somehow I’d be ready to embark on my career and yet here I am wondering what all the bother was about.  This January is shaping up to be much the same as last January except I don’t have my pile of research to dig into.  For the first time in my life I’m looking at being unemployed.  Not an unemployed student rather just plain unemployed.

I caught myself recently looking at adverts for secretarial work.  If nothing else I can type 100 wpm.  Ack!  The most over qualified secretary in the office.  Besides don’t unemployed PhDs work as barristas?

And beneath that smile and positive spin I keep putting on it when people ask me what I’m doing in January, part of me feels like a real failure.  Oh, I keep telling people that I’m teaching a couple of Continuing Studies workshops and I’ll have the time to turn those three chapters into articles and I’ll be working on that Foundational Writing textbook.  But part of me is absolutely terrified that I won’t have the security of being linked with a university.

SFU has been a part of my life since January of 1990.  Twenty years later I will find myself finally free of the university and I don’t think I know how to survive outside the Academy anymore.

So the defense is approaching and I wish it was a million years away.  I can’t see it as marking any kind of beginning.  Instead is marks the end of something I’ve loved so very much.  Something that now, at the end of the journey, I want to hold onto and cherish.  I fear that the end of my graduate work will mark the end of my beloved teaching and research.  Something I thought I wanted so much is looming as the exit from, rather than the entry to, academic life.

I always thought if I did something very well, I would be guaranteed of a job and a career.  The eternal optimist.  As long as I work hard and put my students first, my dedication and talent will be recognized.  But I’m beginning to see that the game does not work that way.  It is more opportunistic and self-serving than I imagined.  I’m not sure I know how to play this game.  Nor that I want to …

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