Recalibrating

I am positively thrilled to announce that I will NOT be defending my thesis this semester.

Stockphoto of a bearded man with his two fists balled up and a thrilled expression on his face. Might be saying "YAH!".
Please imagine me acting just as stoked as this absolutely delighted Stockphoto man

Yep, you read that right. I’m not gonna do it. Not because I’m giving up, or quitting school (though god knows sometimes I feel like doing so), but because the self-imposed deadlines I have for my MA thesis have, at this point, become a source of stress that is both emotionally and physically damaging.

I’ve gained weight, developed mystery chest pains (the new theory is that its not Tietze’s but plain-old acid reflux?), had some traumatic anxiety/panic reactions to otherwise normal situations because of my heightened stress… and I’m done with this. I’m sick of feeling sick to my stomach every time I think about my thesis. I love zooarchaeology. I love my site. I love talking about it, writing about it, thinking about it, but that love has been driven away from me as I get deeper and deeper in the Spring semester. I had to pull over on the highway the other day to be sick because I started thinking about all of the deadlines I had looming over my head.

I just had The Talk™ with my adviser, who thankfully let me come to the decision on my own instead of pressuring me to postpone. Because of the way my school’s graduation cycles run I’ll probably be defending at the earliest possible time in October, and then officially graduating in December. Which is fine by me.

It took me about a month to realize that I couldn’t keep things up at this rate. I couldn’t keep stretching myself so thin, because if I went too far I would snap and possibly irreparably damage my health, my career, my relationships, or a horrifying combination of all three. So I’m taking things a little more slowly. I’m going to prioritize the things that have a hard deadline, and sort out a plan for the other things later.

Its not unexpected for students at UMass Boston to take longer than the standard 2 years to finish their MA, in many of the programs offered here. In no way is that a bad thing, or a reflection of how smart, determined, or capable the students who attend this school are. I rag on UMass a lot (it’s literally built on a landfill!!! how can I not make fun of that!!!), but the environment here is, for the most part, very supportive. The majority of students in this program, and others, who are continuing on to 3rd, 4th, and 5th years (and beyond) are doing so because they have full time jobs, responsibilities, families, etc. and that is perfectly acceptable. I had challenged myself to finish in the “standard” 2 year time frame mostly because I went through a lot of my high school and early undergrad career thinking it was a sign of weakness when I needed to ask for help, or adjust my goals. I would do it, but always begrudgingly. I was always incredibly unkind to myself about needing to take time or space. But I’m trying to less unkind. And setting up a more realistic time frame for my thesis is step one towards being nicer to myself.

This way I can enjoy myself while I’m down in Albuquerque for the SAAs. I can take a breath and work on lecture prep and on my TAG paper. I can write more blog posts! I can also take the time to do proper analysis of my thesis data and write all that I want to write. This doesn’t really change my long-term schedule for next year; I was always planning on applying to PhD programs in the fall of 2019, and working through the fall of 2020 (when I will, hopefully, have been accepted into a program and start). This summer there’s time for the internships I’m applying to, writing, saving money, and working on conference planning for the 2020 SHA Conference. Maybe I’ll finally have time to be in a play again!

Image showing four women in a play. One is standing in shadow on the left, watching the others, two are on top of a circular table, one sitting down and one crouching. The fourth woman is on the far right, watching the two women on the table. The room is stark white, with wooden blocks scattered about, and strange objects hanging from the ceiling.
Throwback to my last play in Toronto, I’m the one crouching on the 8-foot wide lazy-susan. It moved!!! We spun around!!! I miss theatre!!!

I guess I’m writing this as a reminder to other people who may be facing a similar decision that you need to assess your needs and what is best for you. If that means recalibrating your personal goals and relaxing the timelines that can afford to be relaxed then DO IT.

Be well,
Liz

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