I didn't sleep well for several nights, and woke up Friday at about 4. By 5 or 5:30 I was out of bed and feeling very anxious. Even though that other meeting, the preliminary one, is said to be the tougher one, I found that my chest was tight (actually, my whole body was tight) and my stomach was upside down. While I am required to drink coffee due to the sickening withdrawl I suffer if I don't, I certainly did not need it that morning. I was wired!!
Anyway, I exercised, showered, got ready, and was out the door around 8. Here's a picture my husband snapped of me on my way out.
After I left the house, I went to a bakery and picked up the 2 dozen pastries I'd ordered earlier that week. I had no idea how many people might attend, so I figured more was better. (7 people attended, including me. Husband brought most of the pastries back to his office after the defense.)
I arrived at the campus a little before 8:30. I snapped this picture for Instagram. The first step toward my defense from my car. Or, the last step of what have been many, many, many steps taken to get to this point. Either way, I loved my shoes.
My advisor was already there, so we got the electronics set up. A little back-story here: one of my committee members had a family emergency on Tuesday that caused them to have to be out of town during my defense. Thankfully, the university will let a committee member attend remotely if they have a good reason, and if the rest of the committee says it's OK. So we set up the web conferencing system and this person was able to log in and participate online. Whew. Finding all this out was very stressful for me earlier last week! Mainly because my advisor was out of the country all week, only arriving back very late Thursday night, and his signature was required to allow this remote attendance. All I can say is thank goodness for text messaging, email, and understanding office staff. We managed to get it approved using these three saving graces.
At about 9, we started. My advisor introduced me and I was given the floor. In attendance (in person) were my committee, my husband, our friend, and a doctoral student who was interested in seeing the process. In attendance (online) was my other committee member, plus a few special guests. Doing it online with a web conference meant that my parents and grandparents could also watch. How cool is that? They all got logged in and watched it, along with my aunt.
A big "blow" to me was that because of the screen sharing for the web conference, I could not see my powerpoint notes. I was going to have to do it off the top of my head, and I am NOT a person who reads off her slides, so I got pretty choked up at first, trying to remember what I was going to say on the first couple of slides. (One person later told me they thought I might throw up!!) But then I remembered what my husband, my dad, and many others have told me: "you know this stuff now. you don't need those notes." Once I stopped expending brain power trying to remember what my notes said, I was able to let the information just come out, and it got a lot easier. My presentation lasted about 40 minutes, after which there was some public questioning.
The public questioning is when the committee and anyone else can ask you questions about your research, and you answer ("defend"). The way I interpret it is that the committee uses this time to ask you 'easier' questions they know you can answer, and that allow you to elaborate on parts of your research for the purpose of the public attendees understanding more about it. I have little sense of how long this public questioning session lasted, but I'd guess about a half hour. It seemed like the entire experience lasted about 10 minutes, when it really was over 2.5 hours.
Then, everyone was asked to leave/log out except for my committee members. Husband and our friend waited in the hall for me. Again, it felt like a few minutes, but husband said I was in there with my committee for over 45 minutes, closing in on an hour. Here, they asked me the harder questions. They didn't grill me or make me recite anything, it wasn't like that. It was more that they were trying to engage me in a deep conversation about research--mine, and in general. They asked me about publishing, about implications of my work, and several other aspects of it. They also asked me about my experience in qualitative research. I was SO GLAD that it had occurred to me to review my methodology chapter prior to the defense--I had forgotten a lot of the qualitative terms and because of my review, I was able to remember exactly what I had done and why.
Eventually I was asked to leave the room, so I went out in the hallway and sat with my husband and friend. I think we sat there for about 10 minutes or so, before my advisor came out and asked me back in. I went back in, shut the door, sat down, and he told me they had decided to grant me my degree. "Congratulations, Dr. ___________".
My husband and friend came back in to the room then, they signed all the papers that needed signing, and that. Was. That. No revisions either. Just done.
I really thought I would cry at that moment, but I was actually too numb to feel much of everything. In fact, I went home afterward, changed out of my suit, and just kind of wandered around the house thinking "what should I do now?" I considered going back to work. I'd taken the whole day off figuring I would be too excited/distracted to work, but I couldn't think of anything to do! I also hadn't eaten anything that day, but couldn't think of anything I wanted to eat, either. Eventually I did errands. Grocery store, FedEx, DMV. I am a very exciting person.
My husband did leave work early though, and we had a late lunch of a dessert called a chocolate chimi. Basically a fried dough dessert stuffed with fudge and caramel and served with ice cream. Yum. Then later, we went out to dinner with our friend and after that, my advisor came over so we could all drink a toast. We ended the night with a movie at home, with our friend. Saturday, husband and I went out for lunch and totally pigged out. Then ice cream.
So I basically celebrated by eating... a LOT. Haha. I like food, what can I say?!
On sunday, I finished formatting my dissertation document within the standards required by our university. Then I turned it in (electronically).
And that truly is that.
Graduation is in 2 weeks.
I still don't feel how I thought I would feel. I think I'm too much of a realist, or you could say a pessimist. (A pessimistic realist?) I want the degree in my hand before I'll be allowed to feel truly happy. There are too many factors at play still (in my worst-case-scenario mind).
But really I think I truly can NOT believe it. 4 years that simultaneously felt like a decade and no time at all... and here I am.
In the next two weeks I have some big plans. They include a hair cut, a lot of prep for family visiting (my folks haven't seen our house in 2.5 years; other relatives have never seen it), and planning of a graduation reception. And, I'm looking forward to getting the graduation gift from my husband(I had to be involved, so I already know what it is)... which I will surely post about hereat least a little. Note that my plans do not include any more dissertation work because wow I'm done (This summer, I will deal with the printing, binding, and all that jazz.)