Hey there! So… I’m not even going to make up an excuse. I haven’t been writing here at all because, for the past 9-or-so months, I have been working towards my comps. And, surprise! I did it, I’m ABD now!
Passing comps is a big deal, so one could say things are going well. But are they really?
This is a telenovela after all.
The truth is, I can’t write. Not because I have nothing to say, but more because I keep second-guessing what I’ve got to say.
It shouldn’t be like this, really. I didn’t think it would be. My comps had been taking over my life for the past year or so, and I had been thinking of them like some sort of finish line, not the real one -obviously the finish line is the thesis defense-, but a pre-finish line that would make everything more approachable once crossed. I’ve always been fully aware that comps would be the hardest exam(s) I had ever taken, and now I passed them, so what’s my deal?
Maybe it’s a dash of post-partum, with a hint of PTSD. After all, I had been crafting those lists and that thesis proposal for months and months, and then March was just a giant monster exam -or, rather, 5 medium-sized monster exams-, culminating on April 4th with the proposal defense.
I had multiple nightmares between January and April. In each of them, I lived through a disaster version of the last exam. The week before, I had the weirdest nightmare, in which my exam was going perfectly well, and I was nailing it, until my scariest committee member said ‘OK, let’s not lie to ourselves, we all know you’re not suited for this program. Have a nice life.’ See, even my seemingly nice dreams won’t let me enjoy anything.
But the day came, and I did nail it. I really did. I answered each question, demonstrated and asserted my expertise, and addressed the fact that I’m a white woman in postcolonial studies. Then, they asked me to get out of the room to let them deliberate, and I was still second-guessing myself. I thought, isn’t that what we do to old dogs? We give them their favorite treats, we take them out for a nice day at the beach, we give them cuddles, we let them think that everything is great, and then BAM, they get euthanized.
If even Jack Pearson says so, I’m screwed.
I was still imagining the worst, there in the hallway, as far as I could be from the room, for fear that I would hear them cackle about me and making fun of my stupid, stupid self, when they finally called me back in. And they told me I passed. One of my committee members even hugged me. Obviously, I looked shocked, because in my mind, I was already headed to the vet’s to get my last injection. My scariest committee member noticed my dumbfounded face and said ‘Did you really think it would go any other way
dumbass?’, and I told them about my dark, dark dog analogy. They laughed heartily; they’d found it hilarious that I was so unsure, when there had been no doubt in their minds. Except that I was serious, I was fully waiting for the other shoe to drop. Maybe I still am.
So, people were happy for me, I got hugs and applause when I returned to my office, I celebrated with my friends that same night, and then with my boyfriend that weekend. It was relaxing for about 5 days.
Then, I had to deal with everything I had put on hold to deal with my comps. For starters, I had to write a conference presentation. And, most importantly, back in February, I received a Revise&Resubmit for an article I had sent out for publication. So, I started the revision process. Except that I can’t write.
Shouldn’t my comps have granted me with newfound confidence? Because, you know, they haven’t. I’m still deleting every word I write, thinking they’re shit. I’m still wondering if I have any legitimacy writing about this. I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop.
It pains me that all the work I put towards my comps resulted in no tangible change in the way I perceive myself. I’m wondering if it will ever change. Will I ever see myself as an expert? Will I ever shed my doubts, just the time to finish this article, or you know, even better, permanently?
On Friday night, my boyfriend and I went out, and after a couple of beers, I started opening up about this. I had talked to a friend, who passed comps last year and went through the same self-doubting period, but that’s all. It felt good to talk to a non-academic about it, though. I know my boyfriend isn’t objective about me -whenever he’s drunk, he goes around telling everyone I’m a genius-, but maybe that’s exactly the type of thing I need to hear. What he told me was simple: maybe I should make a bigger deal out of it, maybe I’ve been downplaying it all along, because I’m riddled with anxiety and this stupid, stupid French modesty that prevents me from bragging, even when I would deserve to. Maybe I should brag more about the fact that I have 2 years left before being a doctor. Maybe I shouldn’t even add ‘if all goes well’ to my last sentence. Maybe I should just shout ‘I’m ABD, bitches!’ And stop worrying. For now.