Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Dissertating and feeling sorry for myself.

I've gotten back into the swing of things since Monday. Hours spent staring at my computer screens isn't super fun, but I am slowly going through more important documents, and have been thinking about my dissertation. Still lots more to do, of course.

I'm struggling with what I want to do in terms of the dissertation. I know the general story I want to deal with---I have a specific group of people working for a couple different organizations in more or less a specific place during a small number of years. Sounds ideal, right? In a way, yes. Collecting the research material was relatively easy because it was fairly clear when things were relevant and when they were not. (But even then, not as clear as one might think, leaving me with all kinds of things I will probably never use.)

But now I have all this stuff, and there seem to be so many directions I could go in. So many themes I could potentially explore, so many stories I could tell. I guess the problem is that I'm not confident enough to settle on a few key things and then move on to the next stage. The answer is just to keep doing what I'm doing---read through important material that I've collected, with a mind to what interests me. At the moment, though, it's confusing and a little frustrating. My master's thesis was so much easier than this! Although it was nearly dissertation length, I had such a small topic that I could tell the whole story (as I saw it then). For this project I will have to leave large chunks out. Deciding what to leave out---and having a good rationale for doing so---is a big challenge, and it intimidates me right now.

Recently, and not related to my school work, I've been feeling ever so slightly down. Ever since I came back from Washington in June, and maybe even since Israel in May. I didn't really click with anyone on the Israel trip, which is fine, but it just meant I felt kinda intellectually alone (in a whirlwind of activity and emotion) for 9 or 10 days. And then I had a great time at the conference last month, but a brief conversation I had there has made an impact. I don't know why, but talking to a fellow grad student who lives in a university town, is married with a house and a car, and with good prospects for future employment . . . well, it just sounded like he had such a nice life! I love Toronto and I have a great life here. But for some unknown reason, I occasionally think back to this guy---and of course my partnered-up friends here and elsewhere---and feel a bit sorry for myself. I suppose everyone has moments like this, but I have not been bothered by them this much in a long time, I don't think. Must get over this.

Good friends JDS, TC, and EC are gone or will be leaving too, which is also reason for sadness. Although of course I didn't spend huge amounts of time with any of them, it's sad that the possibility of hanging out with them has ended. AB will be gone soon also, removing any possibility of running into his excellent self when I'm at school. Sigh.

Hopefully I'll feel better in short order. Toronto is a non-stop culture explosion in the summer, and I'm looking forward to more adventures and discoveries. And I suppose I should feel the same way about my dissertation . . . the documents do sometimes make me laugh out loud, after all!


EC said...


The History Enthusiast said...

I know how you feel! I'm single and the few single friends that I have are all moving away this summer. Just keep your chin up!