16 April 2010

The Beginning of the End

If everything turns out right, and that Mister Murphy doesn't decide to play games with me, I will be defending my dissertation proposal this coming Wednesday afternoon. Wow. This is the beginning of the end. Finally, this day has come, in which I will be given the formal permission to go ahead and do this line of research as my own mark in science, as my original contribution to human knowledge.


Am I happy? Yes. Am I nervous? Yes. Am I apprehensive? Glad? Stressed? Yes, yes, and yes.

The thing is, I have no data point on how this whole process goes. This will perhaps be my one and only proposal defense. Good thing it is a private meeting. The dissertation defense, which will happen at the very end of my graduate school career, before I graduate, is a public meeting. But this proposal defense is just a private meeting between me and my four committee members. Chances are, this will be the first time that all four will be in one room and on the same page.

So, I have no data point on how this thing goes. I have no event in the past to base my expectations. And I find that nerve-wracking. I have made a point to ask everyone I know here in the department how a proposal defense goes. I have asked two of my committee members so far what they expect of me in the meeting. I also asked my department chair what typically happens in this event. I am doing everything I can so that I can rest assured that things will go smoothly and well.

I know that this is irrational behavior. I mean, I can reason that my research will not go down the garbage dump after this defense since my adviser was willing to advise me along the way for a year, before culminating to this point. If my research is shit, he must have told me that way before, instead of next week. Thus, there is a low probability that my research is crap.

It's the anxiety that one is an impostor, that one is a phony, that one knows nothing and is just an idiot, that sometimes gets me. Sometimes, I think that I might just be delusional and that I claim that I have a big ego and a big idea that the whole world needs to pay attention to, and that this proposal defense will be the grand scene where I will be exposed, found out, revealed to the world that I am just a pretender.

I know that no matter how much I pile up the evidence that point to the fact that I am doing something meaningful, that it is worth my adviser's time, no matter how much I gather these data points and infer and extrapolate that I am on the right track, the fact that I have no previous data point on how these things work makes me apprehensive and nervous, making me imagine things that are sometimes detrimental.

Oh well, irrational as that may sound, I still get a snippet of bright light, that at the end of the day, I think that things will be okay. I tend to be pessimistic, I create contingency plans, I make alternative plans and scenarios, that I can imagine every possible worst case scenario for every task and problem I encounter. This might just be another manifestation of that. My friends have already assured me that I will be fine. Even though I find it hard to trust those words and simply smile, somehow, there is a feeling, that this race is coming to an end soon. I can feel the beginning of the end, there is light at the end of the tunnel, I can see it, I can feel the goosebumps going up and down my arms. Gosh, people have no idea how much this sounds so good, I can feel my neurotransmitters firing in my brain sending exhilaration here and there, you have no idea what this means, getting something you really want, something you have worked hard for more than half a decade, and at the end of the race, you'll be making your mark in the annals of the human race.

Before I end this post, let me share the theme song for this emotion, perhaps most exemplified by the song Hoppípolla by the Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós. I almost saw them when I was in Denmark in 2008, but unfortunately, I bailed out. Watch the music video, forget about the lyrics, and just listen to the song, and perhaps this might be an easier way of conveying how I feel than reading the rant above.

It's 9:00 PM, and I am finishing this post. It's dark outside, but I can somehow feel the sun ready to rise. The beginning of the end smells wonderful, I can tell...


Hendumst í hringi
Höldumst í hendur
Allur heimurinn óskýr
Nema þú stendur

Allur rennvotur
Engin gúmmístígvél
Hlaupandi inn í okkur
Vill springa út úr skel

Og útilykt af hárinu þínu
Eg lamdi eins fast og ég get
Með nefinu mínu

I engum stígvélum
Allur rennvotur (rennblautur)
I engum stígvélum

Og ég fæ blóðnasir
En ég stend alltaf upp

Og ég fæ blóðnasir
Og ég stend alltaf upp

(Blazing Sun, from my University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Series)


  1. After all these years, you truly deserve the fruits of your hard labor. Dissertation? Kaya mo yan.

  2. This is a great milestone Jeruen..! Its like the marathon runner whose joys knows no bounds as he sees the victory line ahead, or a hiker who is on top of the world. Suddenly all the panting, sweating, moaning, waiting, is worth it. I can sense your excitement from the post.

    It is important to determine with what attitude you go into the room... If you are confident, smiling and looking them in the eye, half the battle is won. You have worked hard, you've burned the proverbial midnight oil, so there is nothing that can go wrong unless you want it to. Its like I used to tell my maid when I was in school - "I know I am going to pass, the question is - will I score 80% or 90%" :)

  3. I can totally understand all that's going through your mind right now and I wish I could help, but I've never been in your shoes!

    All I can say is that you always talk about linguistic with passion and I have no doubt you know your subject.

    I'm surprised you know Sigur Ros, they aren't very famous here. I like them too.

  4. TNP,

    Yay! Thanks for the words of encouragement.


    I suppose it is obvious I am excited eh? But yes, I really am, and somehow I feel I can't wait and I just want to get it over with.


    My musical tastes are very broad, so yes, Sigur Ros is one I listen to as well. I'm not all about North American music you know! :-P