excuse me while i melt into a pool of blubbering grad student

So, I gave a "final" draft of my thesis to my supervisor on Friday. I'm sure he will have a few suggestions, but I don't expect major revisions as he's seen the bulk of it already and we discussed the sections he hasn't on several occasions. The last few days I've been puttering around, tidying up a few little things here and there, buying the stupid acco press binders I have to submit my thesis in, finding all the forms and figuring out the oddities of submitting a partially manuscript-based thesis. That last bit was stressful, though for once they were actually nice to me at grad studies, and there isn't really a problem except I can't find my copyright agreements anywhere. Note to self: make a folder for that.

So everything is fine. I'm almost done! But I feel all shaky and like I'm going to burst into tears. I think I've been under a bit too much stress. Maybe the giant thunderstorm outside is not helping. Maybe waking up at 4am and mentally outlining a review article I could write is not helping.

I have to say, I've done this thesis writing thing all wrong. Since April, I've attended 5 conferences/workshops, organized an "informal" summer school lunch series, given 5 talks and 2 posters, travelled to 6 cities, cut 2 pseudo-vacations short, submitted 1 paper and helped with corrections/preparation for two more, submitted two more abstracts for conference presentations, had my SIL visiting, had my hubby go to Japan for a month (while SIL was visiting), helped my best friend get married... oh, and wrote a thesis. I had, at most, two week stretches to write, and most of those got broken up with other little things. The majority of my thesis was written in bits and pieces of a day or two here and there. Some of it on planes, trains and busses. I can't say I really enjoyed the process.

Contrast this with how I wrote my MSc thesis, which I actually really enjoyed doing (ok, I missed the lab, but still I enjoyed it): one 7 week stretch, removed from my department by 5000km. No distractions, no conferences, no travelling. One move, and then time at a desk. I got really focused and into it, I learned things about my data I hadn't seen before, I thought of new interpretations, and things started to come together in a more consistent way. I had time to pick at the writing, the presentation, the ordering of the story and make it all flow.

I'm happy enough with the thesis I have in front of me now, I think it flows ok (given the circumstance under which I wrote it, I'm a little surprised), there are generalizations from the data that I'm just thrilled about, and I think it presents a nice consistent story. I hope it won't be painful to read. But I didn't have the time (or energy) to put a real polish on it this time. I'm sure it's good enough, but it's my usual "best". I'm proud of the science, but the document is just ok. There are things I thought of doing, that I just passed over in the end. It's bugging me. Maybe this is why I keep waking up at 4am thinking about these things. On the other hand, there is a voice in my head pleading "for the love of god, please just hand it in" because I can't bear the thought of dealing with it any longer. I need a real vacation. ;)

So, for those of you embarking on writing a thesis, I have this advice to offer: don't book yourself into dozens of obligations while you are writing. Set aside a real block of time to focus. Tell your colleagues they will have to get along without you (run away if you can!). Then, maybe, just maybe, you will enjoy it and learn something new from yourself.

I learned that I have limits. *sigh*

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