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Thesis Nights 2

 It’s 7:30 at night and the house is quiet. I hear a car pass heading uphill in the clear, winter night. I make a cup of chamomile-peppermint tea in my favorite hand-thrown ceramic mug, and prepare a plate of chocolate cookies and almonds to nibble. Then I sit down to work on my thesis, joining the thousands of working mothers across the country whose second shift begins when the children are in bed.

This is my last semester in grad school; I file my thesis in May. The finished dissertation will be about 200 pages. I have 127 written, of which 111 are the important ones, the pages telling a story of my research into the changes immigration brought to two Barcelona schools in 2009-10. It all needs rewriting and further work, but I’m getting there. One night at a time.

What will I do when I’m done? Here is what I thought when I applied to grad school in 2005:

“In my Ph.D. study I aim to further develop my analytical skills and research expertise while looking more closely at poverty and inequality in education. Specifically, I want to learn to evaluate educational reforms using quantitative and qualitative research methods while examining issues around school funding, equality of opportunity to learn, and education and development.”

I know. Stilted, boring, and so serious! What was I really aiming for? I know I was ambitious, and hell-bent on making a different life than the one I grew up in. I’d always been good at school, and continuing to study seemed like the answer. But really, I had very mixed feelings about what I was doing.

Nearly 7 years later, in the home stretch of my program, I’ve concluded the academic life – at least as I understood it then – is not for me. I love the writing and teaching parts, but not the research. The pressures, pretentiousness and pettiness of university jobs weigh too heavy, obliterating the joy of learning, teaching, and discovering new ideas that also come with being a professor. And, it turns out, I want a life a lot closer to the creative one I grew up in than I was willing to admit at 26.

So I’m not going to be who I thought I was going to be. Most of us aren’t, it turns out. But I am loving writing my thesis. No exaggeration. Loving it. Sure, working the second shift is tiring, and I get stuck at times. But working on the thesis has shown me I really am a writer. And I’ve learned enough about self-discipline, and managing unwieldy, long-term projects to write my first book, or start my own creative business, or possibly found a school one day.

For now, another late night of writing awaits. See you next Tuesday, if not before!

2 comments

  1. Megsie

    01/30/2013 at 9:57 pm

    Um. Willow? OF COURSE you are a writer. You are SUCH a talented writer. Really. And, you know what? In my community college professorship? We only do the informal kind of research to help our very own teaching. It is awesome. So, anyway, I totally hear you. I don’t think I could be the “researcher” kind of professor either. My love is in the teaching. And if you ever found a school, oh man! That would be great! I am tired and it is late, so I may not be making sense, but I just feel the need to tell you to follow your heart. Your heart will lead you down the right path. You will be great whatever you end up doing, just like you are great now. Writing your thesis, blogging once a week. 🙂 Mothering that beautiful Basil…and all the rest. xoxo

     
  2. Willow

    02/01/2013 at 10:28 pm

    Thanks, Meg! I really appreciate your reading and commenting. Community colleges have been an amazing resource for my family, and I always think I’d really like teaching in one. You inspire me!

     

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