Wednesday, November 26, 2008

As a feather? Not quite yet.

When I started this blog in July of 2007, I knew next-to-nothing about blogs, but I had started reading a few and feeling excited about the prospect of doing some non-academic writing. My brother Boo (The Intern) was living with us that summer and helped me come up with the name. "Not to brag . . ." is a phrase in frequent use amongst our family members and close friends, and when he suggested it, I knew it was the perfect name.*

Having chosen the name "Not to brag . . ." I started envisioning the blog. I imagined I would write about my daily triumphs and foibles. I imagined posting a "before" picture of one of my messy, cluttered, claustrophobia-inducing closets (or shelves or basically any flat surface in my home) and then an "after" picture of an orderly, peaceful, organized space. I thought I could post about my culinary endeavors and success stories. I thought I would teach myself how to thread and use my sewing machine and use the blog to show off the pillows I have been wanting to sew for years now, oh and that t-shirt quilt I have been intending to craft out of the two plastic bins of my husband's and my old t-shirts. I thought I would challenge myself to open up my craft cupboard (yes, I have one) and start using the materials inside, wowing you all with my hand-made greeting cards, ribbon belts, and use of scrapbook materials (though I threw in the towel on scrapbooking years ago, I still have all the funky scissors, patterned papers and crap). I also thought I could read one of the several unread books on my shelf--the titles that have moved with me to four different homes and still not been read. I thought I could visit museums, attend lectures, try new restaurants, and in general use the blog as a way to make the most of living in Chicago. In short, I thought the blog would be a great motivator for me to start doing some of the things--big and small--that I had always been meaning to do.

I also thought, back in July of 2007, that when and IF I finally finished my dissertation, it would be the ultimate occasion for a NTB. It sounds kind of silly, but that thought really delighted and encouraged me even though the finish line seemed far, far away. Wouldn't it be funny, I mused, if I posted on a Tuesday about how I color-coded my underwear drawer, NTB, or took all of my loose change to the bank, NTB, and then casually mentioned in my next post that week that I had earned a Ph.D., NTB.

I always imagined that as soon as I finished, I would be at the computer, crafting this post: the ultimate NTB. But here I am, five days after successfully defending, NTB, my four hundred page dissertation, NTB, trying to express how I feel and feeling a little stumped. Yes, I am proud of myself. Yes, I am relieved. I have been enrolled in school in some part of every single calendar year since 1978. Every single calendar year! And now, I am finished.** I thought I would feel light as a feather, but I feel a wee bit numb. I think it is still sinking in. I have more to say about how and why I feel so weird, but I have some sorting to do first.

One thing I feel for sure is grateful. I am grateful for my parents who are amazing pep talkers, cheerleaders, mind-readers, hands-on helpers, and models of generosity, kindness, and positive thinking. I am grateful for my husband who did not let me drop out of graduate school when the stress of my Ph.D. exams had me lying on the floor and crying, claiming that I wanted to quit because I was probably going to fail my exams. My hubby has encouraged me even though this academic endeavor kept us living a thousand miles apart for two years; strained our household finances (and I quote from earlier this year before Bub started (pre) preschool, "I guess I never thought we would be paying your tuition and the Bub's at the same time."), made parenting two young boys even more challenging, and made me difficult to live with at times. The chair of the English department congratulated me after the defense last Friday and then turned to my husband and wisely congratulated him as well.

Without turning into an Academy Award winner, I also am grateful for my beautiful, healthy, joyful boys; my awesome, hilarious siblings; my helpful and kind in-laws, my hard-working and patient professors; and all my friends (who encouraged me even though I fear my examination of female friendship in nineteenth-century America has made me kind of a shitty friend in twenty-first-century America, especially these past few months).

This post is not quite what I wanted to say, but I felt like I had to say something about the dissertation before I could start posting regularly about other things, which I plan to do. Please stay tuned because I am also grateful for all of you. Thank you for enduring the bragging, the rambling, and all those really lame posts about making soup. Thank you for your comments, which mean so much to me and which have brightened more of my days than you might think. Thank you for making me feel heard.

*The nuances of when and how to incorporate a NTB in conversation deserves its own post, and I believe LAP is the one most suited to write it.

**Finished except for re-formatting my dissertation, but that is more busywork than "thinking" work.


Andy said...

Congratulations, Dr. MEP!

LAP said...

Is that your sneaky way of getting me to write a blog? I'll see what I can do on the NTB usage.

I'm grateful for you and for your blog. Nice to have a Dr in the family, but you still have to convince Fancy that you have any merit as she's written you off since you can't deliver our baby.

CaraBee said...

Congratulations! I would have to say that this would be one of those times when bragging is not only acceptable but encouraged.

What's funny is that when I started my blog, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I saw it as a way to post pictures of my daughter for my family across the country to see. I had no idea of the vast world of blogs that exist and how much happiness it would bring me.

I adore NTB and am so grateful for the friendship it has fostered. Thank you!

Actchy said...

NTB, but I knew you could do it.

And I am so damn delighted for you, MEP.

(Also I am struck by your signature honesty, see, e.g., the fact that you felt it necessary to note that your dissertation requires re-formatting, something that is altogether beside the point, but somehow so typical for you to include on a post about a completed Ph. D.: one of the reasons I so love your blog.)

E... said...

I am so thrilled for you that you have this tremendous milestone behind you, that you have it to brag about, so rightfully, and that you have so much to look forward to. I can't wait to see what your life looks like post-dissertation. Ever since I met you down in the Love Hallway, I knew there were great things in your future. This is but one of them, but is certainly one to take the time to take in.

Christopher J. Regan said...

MEP -- It always makes me happy to know you were my friend before practically every friend I have (JOE). Congratulations on everything and Paige and I love you.


Steph said...

Dear MEP, PhD,

Congratulations! I am so thrilled for you! You deserve some time off to play - and some major celebrating! Congrats, congrats!!! Yippee! Horay!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on finishing your Ph.D.! I'm so proud of you for sticking it out...does this mean you have time to meet me for dinner one of these days to celebrate?

Mandy O'Halloran said...

Congratulations, what an amazing feat!!!

cake said...

it is an amazing achievement, but i am sure it will take a while to sink in.

thanks to you, i incorporated NTB into an email i wrote today. and i wondered, will this person really get how i am using this term?

i kinda doubt it. but that is okay.


your writing means a lot to me.

Anonymous said...

congratulations to our goodest girl

Anonymous said...

I am very proud of you! Love, Rita

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