why I am seriously considering not finishing my dissertation

So, I am seriously considering not finishing my dissertation.  And here’s why.

My advisor, whom I adore and respect greatly, has decided that my language skills are not up to the task.  I had a friend help me translate a document, and have checked my translations against other translations when available, but they are still not good enough.  He also wants me to track down obscure texts and journal articles to support a single sentence which is truly tangential to the main point of my argument.  For instance, I note that one of the documents is a compilation of three others, all of which I mention, but now he wants me to go find all of those (one of which is only available from a library in France) and read them.  All for one sentence.

Money.  I am dead broke, adjuncting, and trying to raise a kid on half the money I used to make TA’ing.  I would have to beg, borrow, or sell almost everything I have of value to come up with the money for this next quarter.  As per the above, why bother?  It would be money that would just go to waste.  I already owe thousands in student loan debt, and I would not take the last 8 years back for anything, but frankly, do I want to be this broke?  I adjunct and work on my dissertation.  The jobs here are sparse enough, but most are full time.  Two classes, plus a full time job, plus a teenager equals no time for dissertating.  So it’s either stress about money or stress about words.  In this world, sadly enough, it’s about money.

The whole idea of a monograph that will somehow become my first book is outdated, outmoded, and frankly, pointless.  No one other than someone else writing an equally pointless dissertation will EVER look at what I’ve written.  I’d rather go into a classroom and help a student learn something than slave over words that no one will ever read.  Is that vain?  Perhaps.  But it rings true to me.  The effort, time, and stress I put into this thing will never pay off.  My daughter’s childhood, my creativity…hell, dinner gets washed aside for something that will sit on a shelf for years collecting dust.  Does reading some obscure article in French make me a better teacher?  A better scholar?  I think not.  I have heard that dissertations are just a hoop.  But then why do we not only make the hoop so damned high and light it on fire, but set more and more and more and more flaming hoops in front of it.  Why do we perpetuate it?

Did I slack too much?  Perhaps.  Did I make mistakes along the way?  Absolutely.  Did I focus on teaching and neglect my research?  Oh, yes.  Very much so.  But teaching is what I do, it’s what I love, it’s what makes my heart sing.  Writing this dissertation?  It makes me grouchy, pissy, tense, stressed, and miserable.  It makes me cry on a regular basis.  It has made me throw up more than once.  It is the bane of my existence.  For a while there, I wanted to finish just to finish, just to put those fancy letters after my last name.  But in the end, is it worth the tears, the frustration, and the stress?  I really truly do not know.  I can’t imagine that it is.

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Published in: on December 6, 2010 at 12:50 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Your advisor is going a little overboard with this setting the hoops on fire thing. Okay. A lot overboard.

  2. I dont know what kind of researcher you are, but you were a damn fine teacher and an inspiration. Funny, I know you told me, but I don’t remember what your dissertation was about.

  3. Hugs Melissa,

    I’m sorry your advisor is being so difficult. Does your advisor they realize that you are talking about not finishing because of these requests? Is it possible that they don’t realize the scope of what they are asking? How are the others on your committee? Can they help by talking to your advisor about the need for you to be done? You have come so far that I’d hate to see it end here…I mean if I had to do it all over again I’d likely have left too but at this point so much has been invested.

    As for money any chance of being able to come up with a research reason for being in AZ? If you can come up with anything your department would sign off on then you could use the in absentia registration which is substantially cheaper: http://www.grad.uci.edu/news/update_09_2009_absentia.pdf Like any reason at all…to use a library in AZ or whatever! I know it’s a crazy amount of money to pay if you can’t use absentia or a leave of absence and I know that the UC system has already placed us so far in debt it’s crazy. Still, to be kept from completion by a few thousand dollars seems so unfair after getting dragged so far down into debt.

    As for the dust gathering dissertation? Yes it is a big fucking flaming hoop but I know that you can jump if you still want to. I’m not saying it’ll be easy…hell, I know I have permanent scars from this. I’m just saying I know you can if you still want to.


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