Archive for the ‘dissertation’ Tag

BUT FIRST I HAVE TO …   10 comments

If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ve been watching my struggles. Today I have another “Why do I have to keep learning this over and over?”

Back when I was still on the faculty at Southern Connecticut State University, one of my colleagues reported on a lesson her mentor tried to teach sometime after she had retired. Here’s what she said. “All during my career I kept putting off the reading I wanted to do, thinking I had so much to do first. Then I retired and I found I had much less time and strength for reading. The lesson? Don’t put it off…. “

In 1957, leaving Boston University to move with my husband of two years to our new home in Connecticut – and pregnant with our first child – I had all my course requirements completed for the Ph.D., with only my dissertation left to finish. I even had a professor who had agreed to be my advisor. But there was so much that had to be done first. Lou loved a very tidy, clean house (and, I admit, so did I) so before I did anything else I had to make sure our home was thoroughly cleaned every day. Well, that wasn’t really the first thing. Most important was making the fresh muffins each morning for him to share at work, plus packing his lunch. Then, of course, there was doing my best to prepare a meal that approached the expertise of my mother-in-law. Let’s remember, too, that pregnancy required taking a walk every day, and that expanded into visiting the neighbor ladies for coffee each morning.

All that activity required a nap before getting to work on my experiment. By the way, it could have been completed in two weeks or so if we’d had the computer options we have now. As it was, there were papers all over, and the calculator borrowed on an occasional daily basis from Lou’s work. That took up space and made a mess, so of course the tidy house required putting everything away before Lou came home for dinner. So many things to do first.

The lesson was mine to learn, I was so aware of the way I put off the thesis that I didn’t confess to people at B.U. that I was putting housewifery first. But still… Then, too, there was the spirit of the time. A married woman must of course put housework before a thesis. When I finally finished (in 1964), one of the faculty told me they had all assumed when I married and left Boston that I would not finish my degree. Some of my colleagues when I saw them in later years told me they assumed I must be brilliant – a woman admitted into a doctoral program. The truth is, I’m not brilliant. I was just too stupid to realize that I wasn’t supposed to be pursuing the degree.

OK, so there was an atmosphere that contributed to it. But the problem was mine: so many things to do first, including having a second child, and, joy oh joy! teaching evenings. When I finally got smart and traveled to Boston to consult on my plan and then got to work on it, my children were the only kids in the neighborhood who played thesis – spreading papers all over the floor. Yes, I did reach the point where I left the papers and computer out, with the plan to clean it all up only when I finally finished the dissertation.

My children were 4 and 6 when I finally finished.

So why do I have to keep learning? Getting to writing and editing should be the first thing I go to in the mornings when I don’t have clients scheduled. E-mail and web friends can survive without me. There, I’ve said it again. At least my house isn’t so tidy as it was back when I was still married.

I guess the problem now is that once again I have to get control of my schedule. So, my new day’s resolution: First things first. Schedule myself in during the high-energy parts of the day. The rest can wait.

If I’m holding your interest with this, then check back to monitor my success. That’s the reason for going public, you know. The best guarantee that one will follow through on a resolution is to commit to it in the presence of lots of people.

Thanks for helping.

Posted June 28, 2012 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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I did it! Yesterday I ignored my e-mail and web site contacts and wrote – two things, actually. I finished a short essay I plan to offer to the local women’s magazine, and a longer travel essay to enter in the Writer’s Magazine contest. It would not have happened that way if there had not been dire weather predictions for the evening. Wanting to avoid driving in potential hail and straight winds, I offered my concert ticket to someone with more courage than I. She was happy, and so was I with a whole unplanned day.

Yesterday I had received e-mail notice that June 15 (today) is the deadline for the travel article. Having been writing it in my head for weeks, I realized I had to get on the stick, and so I did, and so it is done. All that remains is to enter it, if only the prevailing web problem will solve itself in time.

Just this morning I realized that I had re-learned an old lesson from way back when I was writing my doctoral dissertation. All my course work was done. Newly married, I wanted to please my husband with a tidy house (up to my mother-in-law’s standards) and meals on the table. Later, pregnancy and a new baby created a scenario of “get all the important stuff done first before working on the dissertation.” The professors back at Boston University had, as they reported later, given up on me when I married, assuming that my dedication to the degree no longer applied.

Then came the day when the light shone and I redefined “important stuff.” By that time there were two children, the only ones in the neighborhood who “played thesis” while their mom punched a calculator. Finally, I was done, degree in hand, house still tidy, and headed for a very happy career both inside and outside the home.

And so today I’m redefining my priorities.

By the way, with today’s computer options, I could have run my experiment and found the results in a couple of weeks.

Posted June 15, 2012 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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