Yesterday I met with my director, a check in meeting after a month, to see where the dissertation was. I was not worried about the meeting, because she'd sent me the diss with her notes before the meeting to read. Her email included the sentence "I am very impressed by it" and "Bravo."
Her notes were minor. Like super minor. She only had one overarching comment- that in the Introduction and Chapters Three and Four I did a great job of emphasizing the rhetoric of the devil and she just wanted me to shore up that thread in Chapters One and Two. But she said it was fine to send out to my committee members and an outside expert who said they'd read it and give me feedback, and to read it with an eye of setting a defense date.
So I fixed the minor notes and just sent it all off.
After our five and half hour meeting yesterday, as I walked out of my director's house, she reminded me of where we were a year ago.
A year ago, I had the worst summer in my life. That summer began with me thinking I was defending, being told I couldn't. Not only could I not defend, but the entire dissertation had to be thrown out and I had to start again. I was unsure how to do any of this, was unsure if I needed to make changes to my director or committee. And I had no idea of how I was going to do all of this with the full time high school job I took to get me through the gap year between when I thought I was graduating and the job market year.
This last year was hard. I worked full time at my high school. I taught a large online Shakespeare class in the fall and spring for my university. I rewrote the entire dissertation from scratch during the fall semester, my new director had a draft by 1 January. And we spent spring semester refining, reshaping. This work was hard for me, because the formal writing of academia is a challenge to me. It was really with this last draft that my argument, my rhetoric, my style, met formal academic writing standards. It was hard. But I did it.
This morning I sat down with the small notes my director had and fixed them. Silly things- I'd forgotten to put inclusive pages on some entries in the Works Cited (BTW- how did people fix these things before Google Books?), a couple of spacing issues, nothing big. But that was it. I saved it, I composed emails to my committee members, and I sent it all off.
Last night, Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom) wrote a great thread on Twitter about the trauma of finishing your dissertation.
Even though I'm not defended or finished, it resonated with me. Because my entire dissertation process has been traumatic, why not expect the post-defense to be.
There's an dissertation acknowledgement I can't find now but it blames any errors in the dissertation on contact with so many demonic texts. I can relate. I have certainly felt cursed a lot of this past year. But I am also blessed. I am blessed that my director believes in me. She has supported me, she has helped me. My other committee members have known just the right questions to ask to get me where I needed to be. I have had an amazing online support network to answer questions and be cheerleaders. Last summer an online friend graciously offered me her writing group, and they have been great supporters, every week as I sat down on Saturdays to rewrite, then revise the diss, they were there for me.
I know this is not the end. Committee members will probably have notes. They may set a later defense date than I want. But my director and I had prepped the committee that we were aiming to have the entire draft to them mid-August for a mid-September defense, so I'm hoping what we end up with is close.
This may not be the end, but it's certainly in sight. Considering a year ago I never thought I'd make it here, didn't not think I had it in me to start over, rewrite it all, this is a big day.
So I've printed my Chapters One and Two to punch up the rhetoric of the devil in them, and I'll work on this while I'm waiting for notes from the committee members, which I hope to get in a timely manner. I report back to my full time teaching job Monday, but for the first time in decades, it'll be the first time I just have one job because I'm not teaching for my uni.
So I have some time, some breathing room. And we'll see what that's like.
But I believe now, in ways I didn't during a lot of this year, that I will defend. I will pass. I will graduate. I will be Dr. Karra Shimabukuro.
To all who helped me get here, who believed in me, thank you.