Brief Thoughts on Turning a Dissertation Chapter In

dissertation, graduate school, Jean-Jacques Rousseau

I turned in my fourth chapter after work today. I had just a few citations to fix (as a Catholic, I do not happen to keep the volumes of Institutes of Christian Religion around, har! har!). It took me less time than I thought. It took me longer to just send the email with the chapter attached. Tomorrow I’ll go through my advisor’s recommendations for the third chapter and eventually begin chapter five. It will probably my last chapter.*

It is strange to be so close to finishing. I have been in school since I was five. This will be my sixth year in graduate school. I do not know how to think of my life outside of the school calendar, the four seasons being: fall semester (the real beginning of the year), winter break (four weeks of aspired productivity which turns out to be not so productive), spring semester, and summer (busier than you would ever expect).

That said, by being closed to “finishing,” I mean only with the dissertation. I’m not sure if a topic like this — Rousseau on Christianity and citizenship — anyone is ever finished, or if anyone will ever have the last word. Most of the time, I’m not even sure if Rousseau ever finalized his thoughts on the topic. There are topics in life that I hope I never have a “final” opinion on. I always want to be thinking, learning. Never dogmatic.

I always feel weird after I turn anything in or finish anything that took awhile. I can’t quite jump into the next thing just yet, so I am in a kind of limbo. Between chapters, I feel a mild form of this. After semesters, I would feel this in the extreme. I would leave an exam and think, “Now what?” I suspect after I defend the dissertation, I’ll feel the same way. I get stressed about being “busy,” but at the same time I don’t like not having things to do.

I’ve been trying to avoid the “reward myself” mentality, but tonight I will not do any work. I’ll sit on the couch and read a novel. I’ll go to bed a little earlier and maybe not wake up at four in the morning. Then, after work on Friday afternoon, I will be back to it, dissertation writing as usual.

xo, Ali

*Unless it gets split in two like chapter three, which I originally turned in back in April.

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