Saturday, October 5, 2013

The state of the dissertation is . . . tenuous. But I'm hanging in there.

If you've followed my dissertation posts over the past year, you know that nothing about this process has been easy. That's continued to hold true, as I have long exceeded the timeframe within which I had hoped to defend my dissertation topic and begin writing chapters. Two weeks ago, I failed my first attempt to defend my topic to my committee. I'll have another shot, so right now I am trying to make some revisions that were suggested to me at the defense. If I can submit passable revisions within two weeks, then I will be in a much better position and might even be able to begin writing.

One of the issues that was brought up surrounding my defense was whether I have enough passion to sustain this project. Maybe that is supposed to be a straightforward question, but I have never found it to be so. Even at the point (two years ago . . . a time I've been foolishly longing for of late) when I could unhesitatingly say that I enjoyed my academic work, my enthusiasm and energy could vary considerably over the course of a given week, subject to so many factors of mood and circumstance. I really don't know how to quantify something like "passion."

If it's a question of whether I can muster the perseverance to write a good dissertation, then I believe I can. And I know that even if I struggle all the way through the painful dissertating transition from student to "scholar," that doesn't necessarily mean I can't be a great teacher. If anything, some failures along the way might help mold me into a better teacher.

All the same, I do wonder if my committee is onto something, in that I think I might be a better theology nerd/avid hobbyist than theology scholar. Maybe I'll write more about this at another time. I assure you the distinction means something in my mind, even if I'm not quite able to articulate it yet.

Anyway, no matter what happens or what I discover about myself as a scholar in the next few weeks, I can say that the past few years of graduate study have been a wonderful privilege, I wouldn't trade them, and most importantly I believe that God is using them and will continue to use them. It hasn't been a waste. I'm so grateful for everyone's kind interest, support, and ongoing prayers along the way. I'll keep you posted.


  1. If it's any consolation, realizing I didn't have a passion for what I was doing in the same way my peers did is part of why I quit and why my reasoning was accepted to my adviser. I love, love, love history, but honing in on one thing, even one thing I found interesting, was very difficult for me in terms of the work and sacrifice it required. I can't describe the difference; I still very much wish to know the answer to the questions I was asking for my diss, but so much of life seemed more important to me than the task of answering those questions. I still love doing the coursework part of graduate school; it was the research itself that did it.

    I say this not to encourage you not to continue, but to say you're not alone, nor do I think it is bad or, dare I say it, makes you a "failure" as it's so easy to believe others are thinking. I agree that you absolutely can power through the diss if you'd like, and you can/will be a fantastic teacher. :)

  2. I still very much wish to know the answer to the questions I was asking for my diss, but so much of life seemed more important to me than the task of answering those questions.

    Victoria, that's very much where I am . . . Thanks a lot for your comment.