The Social Scientist – #reverb10

#reverb10 – Beyond Avoidance.
What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?)
(Author: Jake Nickell@skaw)

I’m a social scientist.

caligater and the thesis

A rare 2010 moment in which I work on my thesis. Photo cred: @CohereLLC

Or, I’m becoming one.

See, I’m a total dork. I absolutely LOVE higher ed. I love being around people who are actively working on exercising their brains, who love to grapple with ideas, who seek to honor and create their life-work and life-learning. And while I’ve found such people in all parts of my life, the environment of academia sweeps me off my feet (despite its bureaucracy and ivory tower-ness).

I’m currently working on my third degree—a master of social sciences degree. I powered through and completed all of my coursework in two years, taking a full-time graduate load and spending many, many hours in the stacks and in cafes.

I quit my job a year ago so I could focus exclusively on school. But “exclusively on school” became “inclusively of everything but school.” I finished up my last graduate course in May, and then my intention was to jump fully into researching and writing my thesis (the thesis being my last project in order to earn my master’s). I thought I’d have all the time in the world to read & write—no courses to take, no traditional work hours…just me, some books & journal articles, and my laptop.

But ya know what happened instead?

  • I focused on working for myself (both trying to figure out what I wanted to do work-wise, and doing work just so I could pay my bills).
  • I was VERY social—I spent time with loved ones and attended & helped plan tons of local events.
  • I was in a relationship.
  • And, I basically let my thesis hover in the Doesn’t This Thing Write Itself? part of my brain.

As it turns out, my thesis didn’t write itself.

As summer came to a close and I had piddly work to show for my thesis, I began avoiding my thesis full-out. I should have had so much done. I should have sought out professors for my thesis committee. I should have the calluses on my fingers to prove how much I’d written. But because I hadn’t satisfied any of these shoulds, I buried my head in the academic sand.

Totally avoided something that I’ve always been so passionate about. Weird.

2011 puts me back on the road to becoming a social scientist.

A  huge part of my grad school inspiration comes from the brilliant, insanely hard-working, reach-for-the-stars Alex. She writes at The Tao of Grad School, and through knowing her as a friend AND the grad life she writes about, I’m motivated to keep knucklin’ and brawlin’.

So. I’m devoting 25-30hrs/week to my thesis. I’m going to gather a fantastic thesis committee. I’m seeking funding to do a bit of research in Toronto. And I really hope to defend in May of 2011. It may be a crazy timeline, but I believe I can do it.

So here’s to gettin’ my dork on. Again.

  • You CAN and will do it. :)
    Remember and savor all the things you DID accomplish this year. Those are the things you needed to do in 2010 to set yourself up for what is to come in 2011. Relationships with friends and family and your work and spiritual life are all incredibly important. I was 6 months behind everyone else in my cohort on her own thesis, but I wouldn’t change a thing about my time line.
    Also, you are so sweet and your kind words mean so much to me. You inspire me in so many ways and I’m so thankful for the friendship we’ve established even at a distance. You are an incredible woman. <3

  • Way to dork it up!

    I’ve had the same “writing itself” mentality for a lot of my projects as well. As much as I love the idea of my novel and leave it to dance around in my head all day, it’s never going to get anywhere unless I write the damn thing down!

    As far as graduate school: I found this comic when I was still an undergrad: http://www.phdcomics.com/ And I never once thought again about applying.

    Then again, I am rather cynical at times.

  • Once I was lamenting about how I hadn’t finished my manuscript and my agent hadn’t found a publisher and a wise friend said to me, “maybe you’re not ready to do your most important work yet. If you did it all right away, what would you have left to do?” I’d never thought about it that way before. Everything in its time, maybe. Good luck, though.

  • Yay for social science dorks!! Join me, I need the company…

  • I’m with Mark. I dig dorks.

  • I too have ‘just’ the thesis part to finish before I get my Master’s Degree in Creative Writing. Doing it this year wasn’t part of the immediate plan but it’s becoming to look more feasible.

    Good luck to you for your ensuing dorkiness!

  • Good for you! Sounds fun. Haha I find it ironic that I “avoided” this prompt. But your answer to it is motivating to do all sorts of things I should have. :)

  • I absolutely love this. I completed my master’s in July 2010 and I understand your avoidance issues. I was in a 10-month accelerated program so I literally did not have time to think about avoiding projects. But as soon as I found a free day, I did nothing. I knew I should have been writing papers and presentations but I needed the nothingness. I was in a relationship and my poor boyfriend was majorly neglected.
    I plan to apply for a PhD for Fall 2010. I’m scared, nervous, and anxious that I will avoid doing work on something I’m so passionate about (work/life flexibility) but I have to try. This year is the year I get my business in order and get applications done. I hope I, no, I will, do it.

    • Oy – sooo sorry for such a delayed reply. Wow – I can’t tell you how reassuring it is to hear your story. Thank you for sharing.

      Keep me posted on the PhD application front. I can be your accountabilibuddy if you want. :)

  • Falconreid

    I hear you, doing that which we’re ‘supposed’ to do even when it’s a passion, should be easier, should be desirable. But it’s that Law of Diminishing Returns. It takes so much more work to get further along the more you progress. So that after a while, not doing anything related to your passion seems appealing. Yet, in the back of the mind, the desire keeps reminding you, “I’m still here!” Good luck on your thesis, and press in.

    • Thank you, thank you. Pressing in — _leaning in_ is where it’s at.

      The krazy/masochist part of me kinda *hopes* that it gets harder. I guess I have some strange worry that I’ll get bored… :D

      Thanks for commenting!