Graduating and Reflecting on my Ph.D.

The fact that you can read this post means I am done with my revision and now only waiting for my official diploma and transcript. So, I guess, congraduations to myself? ^^ Anyway, I’ll divide this post into two, a story about my defense, which you can skip, and a reflection on getting my Ph.D., which I hope you can read.

A story about my defense
Well, let me tell you how my defense went. First of all, I wasn’t excited. LoL I was super nervous and I just wanted to get it done. My friend who defended before me kept asking me if I wanted to do some rehearsal with her because she did a rehearsal with me before defending hers. She’s so nice and kind. But I was just not up to it. I was simply so done. I didn’t even finish my powerpoint slide presentation until a day before the D-day. And that’s also when I sent the link to my presentation to the whole committee. And while beofere that I was not sure whether to have the defense public or entirely private, in the end I decided to have it entirely private. I don’t know. Again, I was just not as enthusiastic. I was anxious. I just thought that if I had it public and then not so many attended, even though I’d try to understand, maybe they’re busy or had something else to do, I’d be sad. And if many people joined and then started asking questions I couldn’t answer, that would be scary too. See? I was so lame. Maybe I am.

Anyway, I timed how much I’d spend in defending because I’d been in touch with my advisor about that, consulting my slides and all, and they advised me to present not more than 40 minutes. 282 pages explained in less than 40 minutes. Oh, well, wow. But, hey, you can’t underestimate me. That much is something I can do. I practiced the night before the D-day and yes, I needed less than 40 minutes. At that time I was still sleep-deprived. I slept late and woke up late. But that day I tried my best to not go back to sleep so I could prepare for my presentation. I was actually contemplating about whether to have my defense on campus or at home in my apartment. I was worried that the internet connection would go bad or if I would get disturbed by people knocking on my door when I was presenting and all. Suddenly I freaked out more than I had anticipated. LOL

But in the end, I decided to defend at home. Again, I was too lazy to walk to campus. But then outside my apartment got so noisy. Gosh. I kept hoping they’d stop by the time I started my presentation. And thankfully they did. And oh, I also put a sign on my door. Hahaha

The presentation went quite very well. I presented. Started it right at 10. Presenting for around 40 minutes or less. Then having a “discussion” with the committee. They asked me questions and gave me suggestions. Probably until 11.15ish. Then they went to a breakout room without me so they could discuss and decide whether I passed or not or how they’d go about my revision and all. They probably spent around 30 minutes. Then they came back joining the main Zoom room and congratulated me saying I’d pass. The other committee left. My chair stayed and we talked about what revisions I should make. My chair said it’s just a minor revision. Still, a minor revision is still a revision. Sigh.

I spent the rest of the day relaxing and doing nothing as usual. Let me say it again: I was simply so done. My committee were kind. During the presentation I kept asking them to give me a lot of feedback so I could improve my dissertation because I just felt that I sucked and that perhaps my dissertation wasn’t that good either. My friend said that my writing must be good ’cause it’s me. My committee complimented me for how good it was but I just couldn’t believe it. I mean, I’m “happy” and “thankful” with their nice and kind comments, but I don’t know, I just couldn’t bring myself to be content with it. I’m glad it’s over but that’s just it.

I also emailed my committee asking for more details for the revision. Not all committee replied, by the way. Sigh. But most of them were responsive, nice, and kind. My chair was especially angelic. I’m so glad to have her. Anyway, even though it’s just a minor revision (e.g. add more implication, add one-two paragraphs in the litrev and then add more scholarly literature in the discussion), it ain’t as easy as I thought it would be. I mean, to revise means I should read more. Reading is like collecting the dots, writing is like connecting the dots properly. In short, I can’t revise my dissertation without reading more references first. But again, I was so done. And revising is harder ’cause not only do I need to read to collect the dots and write to connect the dots but I should also think about how to connect these dots I collected from reading new pieces into the dots in my dissertation. For example, if I removed one sentence from a paragraph or add one sentence into a paragraph, then I should think about how the whole paragraph still makes sense and stays connected with the previous and the next paragraphs, so, again, it ain’t that easy.

But, well, it ain’t that hard either actually. The truth was, I spent less than a week revising it, perhaps only around 2-3 days writing/revising. But it took me almost a month to actually get started. LoL But the good news is, I could finish it in less than a month. My revision was actually accepted and approved right before the one-month anniversary of my defense. Whatever that means. Hahah But, well there was a drama, though. After it’s approved, I realized that the pages on the list of the tables page have not been updated correctly. The administrator asked me to remove a page that wasn’t required and thus asked me to adjust the pages on table of contents accordingly, right? But I was careless, so I only edited the pages on the table of contents page only but not the pages on the list of tables page. Stupid me! Well, I contacted the administrator right away, on the same day my revision got approved. They forwarded my message to ProQuest team, and thankfully it was all taken care of within two days, so I can feel at ease now. Well, but that’s just it. I’m thinking of traveling but then let’s write it on another post 😉

Reflecting on my Ph.D.
After my graduation ceremony, I asked a friend to go to campus to take some pictures. I didn’t buy any of my graduation attire as I borrowed everything for free from GPSC (I just bought the tassel) and so I decided to take some pics before I returned them to GPSC. And, well, actually, having taken tons of pics for my master’s graduation, I wasn’t as excited for my Ph.D.’s graduation pics. But, oh well…

I don’t know how to put it well. But I didn’t feel as frustrated back when I was doing my master’s. When I was doing my master’s and done with it, I was really happy. When it’s finished, I felt accomplished. With my Ph.D., it’s just different. I felt frustrated, anxious, and desperate. There were times I felt like quitting but I couldn’t afford the consequences so I persevered. I would love to add depression to it but neither did I have the money and the courage to see a psychologist/psychiatrist/therapist, and we can’t self-diagnose, right? So I can’t say I was depressed. But I know I was stressed. The pressure to finish on time. The expectations people have just because I’ve got a Ph.D. The future that is yet to unfold and uncertain. What’s next? It stopped me from moving forward, I got stuck, I blamed myself, I forgave myself, I felt bad, I gave myself a good excuse, another chance, and the push I needed, I felt bad again, I got back up and cheered on myself, I just wanted to finish, and not sure if it’s for the first time or not, I felt kinda disappointed in myself because I felt like I could’ve done better. Remember when I said that we had to give our best so no matter what the outcome is we’ll have no regrets? Right. I kinda regret it. I feel like I wasn’t giving my best. I just wanted to finish. I am afraid of people’s judgement. I’m scared of not living up to people’s expectations, expectations that I created myself on my head, expectations that I perhaps projected on others but were reflected back onto me, things I myself wanted to achieve but too afraid to pursue. People told me good things, and while I’m thankful because they’re such kind words, I feel like they kinda weigh down on me. And then I feel bad because I feel like I’ve always motivated and encouraged others to move forward and persevere, yet here I am, always making excuses for not even trying harder. Am I being fake? Did I really try hard enough? Did I accomplish all of these really after giving my best and my all?

To be honest, I don’t know. But I feel like I have to write it down so people know. I’m just a normal human being. I have those worries too. I can be super anxious too. And I’m not always strong. People always think that I am smart, strong, and all. (Or is it just my wish or my imagination?) I’m of course flattered, but to be honest, there are times I feel stupid too. There are times I want to be allowed to be weak and can rely on others too. I am writing this to let everyone know that such things are okay too. After all, life is a constant struggle, no? We’ll keep trying to figure out things till we die. Sometimes we’ll always be in search of who we are and our purpose in life.

And maybe that’s it. I mean, when I finished my master’s degree, I still had a purpose in mind: securing a scholarship, continuing to pursue a Ph.D. Now that I’m done with my Ph.D., I don’t know what I should do next. Finding a good job? Publishing in good journals? Contributing more to the society? And people would expect me to get married, have kids, and all of them. It’s not that I feel pressured or something, I’m fine on my own and I don’t want to get married just because I am getting old. That’s not what I want. But imagine having accomplished all of these things only to be considered a failure just because I’m not married. Let’s be honest, let’s not deny it, we still live in that kind of society and it sucks. So maybe that’s why I kept procrastinating writing and revising my dissertation? Perhaps I just wanted to hold onto that so that I could still have a purpose, something I had to do. Maybe that sounds like a lame excuse, maybe I am simply not as excellent as I used to be, but to be honest, I don’t think it’s impossible. Maybe I have been really scared of not having a purpose in life. When I was doing my undergraduate study, I was so obsessed about graduating on time, being the best graduate, having a job and being independent, and all. When I was finishing my master’s, I got to think about getting a Ph.D. But now, what’s next? I still haven’t found the right answer. So maybe that’s why I can’t happily move on or move forward. I just feel tired and exhausted. I just want to lay low and live in peace without being burdened with expectations. And to be honest, sometimes I just want to be nobody. Well, maybe I’m already a nobody and maybe that’s why it feels like it sucks. That I am somebody is perhaps only what I want people to think of me. I don’t know. Am I contradicting myself? Do I sound complicated? Well, you see, it’s that bad.

But, well, one thing is over, maybe I shouldn’t think too much about the future. I mean, let’s face it when it happens. I might die tomorrow too, right? So I might as well enjoy this moment. Well, maybe I’m not that happy with my current accomplishment, but I am quite content with my life, I guess? ^^

Well, okay, I guess, that’s all. If you have the same thoughts and worries or if you can relate to what I write, I hope you know that it’s normal. Sometimes we just need to keep trying. Sometimes we just need to take some breaks. Sometimes we think too much. Some other times we think of nothing. So, well, let it happen when it’s time. There’s no use complicating it in advance. Well, I know I might have been doing the opposite. It’s easier said than done, after all. But, you see, I’m trying to cheer myself, you, and us all so I hope it gets through… ^^

See you on my next post 😉

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