The Proposal

Last time I talked about some tips for good presentations. Today I want to talk about weight falling off of your shoulders. Many students are now done for the semester. Some of you are still studying for finals. Still others are prepping for summer school. Whatever you status in academics please know this: a time for a break will come. Keep studying, prepping, reading, writing, or painting. Just recently I walked through what amounts to the final gateway between me and a degree: my dissertation proposal defense. The situation is really quite simple. I tell a number of smart people what I want to research and write about, and they tell me yes or no. We could make it sound more complex, but this is really what it is at its core.

While I have to admit that I was more apprehensive about my qualifying exams (they were, to put it nicely, structurally absurd), there was still that small twinge of doubt and anxiety connected to that one moment where you find out if you did, actually, get the “A.” Part of this, then, is for those of you just starting out in middle school, high school, college or graduate school and feeling apprehensive. Wondering if you’re smart enough, etc. etc. etc. Here’s the thing: that apprehension never really goes away. You just keep doing things at a higher level that can go more wrong more quickly with larger consequences. The thing is, though, that you’re more prepared for those things by the time you get there. Failing my qualifying exams very well could have destroyed my entire degree and all the years of study spent towards it (not to mention the monetary debt). Five years ago I would have found it unthinkable to read over 15,000 pages in less than a year. Now I’ve done it. It isn’t unthinkable anymore (just, perhaps, a little unpleasant). I got through my proposal. You’ll get through your test, or your presentation, or your whatever. Good luck. Press on.

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