the fearless defender!

So, here are all the gory details of my dissertation defense. As they say on Rate Your Students, “Please to enjoy.”

Needless to say, I was a ball of nerves the day or two before. I don’t think I slept more than 3 hours at a time at all on Sunday or Monday nights. Tuesday morning, I was a nervous wreck and slammed Pepto straight out of the bottle to calm the queasies. Forget trying to eat anything substantial! I walked around like a newborn deer, shaky on my feet and wide-eyed. Even when I tried to play it cool, I couldn’t fool anyone.

I was lucky to have a group of supportive friends and family there during the defense to smile at me. My mom made the drive to be there, and the spouse was there nodding in approval and looking at me with encouragement. The night before, he was kind enough to run through the presentation with me a few times to nail beginnings, transitions, and wording choices. That kind of practice is absolutely essential for pulling off a good presentation with less anxiety.

As I started my presentation, I really began to trust myself and all of the work I’d put in to the whole project. I breezed through the presentation in around 15-20 minutes, and then took questions with me and my committee sitting around a rather large conference table. I felt prepared and comfortable with even the most difficult questions I got, and most of what my committee had to say fell into the “hey, I wonder what would have happened if…” category rather than the “you were really weak here…” category. The tone was very conversational, and lots of really interesting ideas were floated around. I dare say it was kind of fun!

After the questioning ended, we were sent out for the committee to talk amongst themselves. I’m sure it was no more than 10 minutes, but it felt like an eternity. Sitting out in the lobby, I kind of wanted to say, “So, uh, that’s it? I was nervous about that?!” It felt a little anti-climactic, and even though a few people had warned me about that, I didn’t expect to feel that way. The defense was not nearly as scary or difficult as I’d imagined.

Suddenly, the door opened, and there stood my chair. He smiled and extended his hand and said those magical words, “Congratulations, Dr. Freckles.” They only asked for the most minor of revisions, and my chair even said that compared to most other defenses, I was asked to do very little. That was certainly a relief, and I’m really glad that I started doing revisions a few weeks ago.

I spent the rest of the day celebrating. First, we had lunch with my mom at one of my favorite local places, and then she took off to get home before the traffic got intense. We briefly went home, changed clothes, took care of the dog, and then took off for our favorite local bar where I’d invited our friends to happy hour. In all about a dozen people showed up, and it was so nice to be surrounded by people who had been so supportive of me. I’ve truly been blessed.

Now that’s over, but I’m hardly taking a break. I need to finish off the revisions, start working on my papers for an upcoming conference, start breaking my dissertation down into article manuscripts, and get cracking on some data collection upon IRB approval. Oh yeah, and find a job. I’m still in no mood to write about that.

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