On Getting Married and Completing a PhD
HELLO! I know, it’s been ages since I’ve updated, and so much has happened in the meantime.
First thing: Mr. May and I got married! I looked like this:
It was a lovely ceremony in Dumfriesshire, near the Scottish Borders. It was very short, with just our parents and a few friends present. So it was just something small and absolutely lovely. But look who came!
After spending a couple of nights near the Borders, Mr. May and I headed with our parents up to Fort William, where we had a divine time exploring the Highlands, Skye, and Mull and seeing some of our favourite sites again.
It was just beautiful! Thank goodness we were well prepared for the rain, too. 🙂 Though my poor camera took quite a beating in the downpour, so I’m immensely grateful for the Mark III’s weather proofing.
After we came back from the Highlands, all I’ve been doing for the last month is editing my PhD dissertation. And it’s done!! DONE DONE DONE and turned in!!!!
I’ve written a bit about working on my PhD here on the blog, but I kind of wanted to reflect on it. Basically: completing this degree was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, and to be honest, I get emotional just thinking about it. The dissertation itself certainly wasn’t the longest thing I’ve ever written, about 78k words (The Falconer was 89k, in comparison), but the combination of research, writing, and stress over the time I worked on it made it agonizing to write. To offer some perspective: I wrote both The Falconer and The Falconer 2 in the process of working on this degree; it is a massive, soul-crushing thing that takes years and sucks the joy out of everything.
I didn’t really take care of myself the last few months I was working on this — emotionally or physically. I kept feeling like there wasn’t time to put myself ahead of this work. No time to go to the gym, no time to make dinner, no time to go for a walk, etc, etc, etc.
It’s hard to explain the thought process that takes over while working on a PhD. You can be there in a room with your friends or your spouse, but this section of your mind constantly reminds you that you shouldn’t be having fun — you should be writing your dissertation. It’s awful, to feel like you aren’t really mentally present at all, because you feel like you don’t deserve to relax. For me, there was little mental reward for finishing a chapter, or finishing a round of editing. Everything was just a reminder that it still wasn’t done and that I still had to work on it.
There’s a reason so many people quit the PhD before they finish: because for some people, it turns them into someone they don’t like. I really felt that way. Eventually you get to a point where you’re tired of the project, of university, of stress, and are just tired tired tired.
I’m incredibly glad it’s done, because now I feel like I can be mentally present. The only thing that kept me going in the months I was finishing when there was no time for fun was this mental list of stuff I wanted to do when I finally completed. Little things like going to all of the museums and galleries in Edinburgh, or starting a herb garden, or exploring the Pentlands. And there were bigger things like climbing all of the Munros in Scotland, and finishing up a non-Falconer book.
I added a lot of items to my list as I wrote because I needed some silver lining. Now that I’m done, I get to start ticking items off of my list. It’s an exciting thing, to finally be done and feel like I deserve to relax.
xx Elizabeth May