I haven’t been blogging lately, probably because I’ve been busy putting the finishing touches on my thesis. I’ve got several half-written draft posts, but the focus required to polish them has been directed elsewhere, into the most important part of my academic career to date: my thesis.
Now, my thesis is done. I finally recognized I was working on it much harder than I had to and let it go. I still have time to make a few tweaks here and there before I have to submit a final version for binding and archiving, but it’s basically written. And I have my defense in a couple weeks to be nervous about in the meantime.
My thesis is so much more than a really long paper or research project. It’s not even just that it’s my capstone and a necessary part of graduating as an honors student. It’s that so much of who I am shows through. I’ve put my mind and heart into this project and didn’t edit them out. And foremost are the parts of me that I wouldn’t normally showcase – the uncertain, indecisive, conflicted self. Even in the very last pages, I am hesitant that I am writing the right things. There’s also parts with my matter-of-fact humor, sharp opinions, and hopefully some degree of intelligence. There’s empathy for the people in the situations I write about, and the sincere hope that whatever critiques I have are well-directed.
I think there’s a stereotype of academic writing as dry, objective, and impersonal. And maybe that’s true in some cases. But, no one in my committee asked for that. They let my thesis arise from my own stories, my own point of view. They told me I needed more self-confidence, and they were willing to support my personal conclusions pretty unconditionally (I assume some conditions would arise if my conclusions were absolutely unreasonable). They didn’t just tolerate my personal narrative, they encouraged it. And they totally knew how to push me, too – but in all the right ways to let me speak for myself.
I went into this project feeling woefully underprepared. For me, the thesis didn’t feel like a natural evolution that gradually built off of my previous classwork. As much as I’ve known it was coming since the very beginning of my college life, it was still an unprecedented obstacle. I’m not entirely sure how I made it through. Even six months ago, I couldn’t imagine being where I am now, having turned a bunch of messy field notes and experiences into a finished piece. I’ve received tremendous support from the anthropology department and my committee in making this thesis a reality. It’s been a good experience, though not an easy one.