Monday, March 30, 2009

What now?

Today I submitted the final copies of my dissertation. NTB. I finished the "thinking work" a few months ago and the margin and font and page number and "thank God my hubby had a second major in computer applications" formatting work back in February. In March, I filled out the necessary surveys for the school and government. I visited campus to drop off and another day to pick up the forms I needed signed. I visited the post office to send those same forms for additional signatures and breathed a sigh of relief when they arrived back in my mailbox. I ordered bound copies of my project. I wrote a check to apply for a copyright. I asked my husband to print out two more copies of the darn thing. I drove downtown after lunch today, and he passed the last of these through the car window so I could drive to campus and drop the whole thing off to a friendly, sweet, young blond woman who confirmed that I had everything I needed.

When I checked my email a couple of hours later, I had received official word that my final copy submission was accepted. NTB.

Then, I sent an email asking a question about the commencement ceremony. I found a ribbon and a ruler and measured my head. I placed an order to rent the fancy outfit for the ceremony.

And then, I thought, "What now?"

And then I remembered that I bought a book, recommended by my friend E... when she guest posted here on NTB, called What now? by Ann Patchett.* So I read it. And loved it.

I'm not exactly sure what my answer is to "What now?" The plan for now is to try to teach a class or two in the Fall and go from there. I know I like to read, write, and learn about people's lives and stories.

Patchett's book reminded me to enjoy and appreciate this time, to remain open to possibility, and to just, well, pay attention. I am hoping that the answer to "What now?" will delight and surprise me.

Here's a passage from What now? that I will be reflecting on in the weeks and months to come:

"The secret is finding the balance between going out to get what you want and being open to the thing that actually winds up coming your way. What now is not just a panic-stricken question tossed out into a dark unknown. What now can also be our joy. It is a declaration of possibility, of promise, of chance. It acknowledges that our future is open . . . There's a time in our lives when we all crave the answers. It seems terrifying not to know what's coming next. But there is another time, a better time, when we see our lives as a series of choices . . . It's up to you to choose a life that will keep expanding."

What now? Good question. I'm going to try to enjoy figuring out the answer.

*Ann Patchett rocks. Bel Canto is one of the most beautiful novels I've read. I also recently listened to the audio version of Run. Patchett also wrote an kick-ass essay in The Wall Street Journal a few months ago about the triumph of reading these days.


Lap said...

Love the passage. Also appreciated the dissertation play by play as I can never seem to appropriately answer the question of " is MEP all done now?" Sounds like I can now say yes with confidence!

Maggie said...

Wow. Congratulations. If you haven't read it, there is a book of short essays called 'what should I do with my life' by Po Bronsons that is a decent read. Some stories more compelling than others but if you are intested in people and life choices, its kind of neat!

The only (quasi)con of this book is that a lot of the people are do-gooders or made some big sacrifices for the greater good. Made my life feel a bit trivial!

Michelle said...

Congrats Megan! I'm so proud of you. You have worked so hard.

I love this post and the passage. Sometimes I feel like I'm always asking the question, "What now?"

The world is your oyster! Enjoy it.

Steph said...

Yippee!!!! I'm so happy for you! Enjoy the unplanned time.

Anonymous said...

I thought Bel Canto was a fantastic novel.

As for recommendations, there's a book that I think you'd enjoy, and falls somewhat in the "where will my life take me?" genre. It's quite long (even worse, it lags at the beginning), so it's an investment: Katherine Graham's autobiography (

Graham is the woman who ended up running the Washington Post for many years and she writes about her life in elegant detail. The Amazon reviews seem pretty accurate.

CaraBee said...

I think about "what next" all the time. I am trying to enjoy these days with Sophie, but I can't help but wonder where we'll be in a few years. If/what/how I will go back to work. Sometimes tomorrow feels very close and sometimes it is very, very far away.


E... said...

So happy to hear that all the last deadlines have now been crossed off. I will enjoy thinking of you earning your hood -- how exciting!
I'm also glad to hear you liked What Now, and know that you are going to find some excellent answers to those questions. I found it so reassuring to think of letting the answers come in a thoughtful, welcoming way.
While we're praising Ann Patchett I feel compelled to plug her book Truth and Beauty. As someone interested in female friendships, I know you would like it. She got some criticism from the family of the woman she writes about for captilizing on her tragedy, but I actually think it was a heartfelt tribute to a troubled friend. Someday, if I ever teach a class I have actual control over planning, I will teach this book in conjunction with the book by her friend, Lucy Grealy: Autobiography of a Face. (Like you need to add to your reading list!)

Actchy said...

MEP, your post hits the nail on the head with respect to a lot of issues I've been grappling with as of late. Ann Patchett's book is next on my list. (And man, did I ever love Bel Canto.)

Anonymous said...

I am so very proud of you. Letting the answer to your question unfold rather than forcing it certainly seems the most peaceful way to find where you want to be. I think our entire life is a series of "what next" moments. Some, of course, more WHAT NEXT than others. m

cake said...

i hope you can relish a sense of satisfaction in this moment.

i also really like that passage, and find myself in a state of transition too. sadly, i don't have a ph.d. just an m.arch., and lots and lots of debt.

so far, i have been doing a good job of not going into panic mode. this is a good reminder.

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