Friday, June 02, 2006


Marian Smith had related a story to me about studying for her doctoral comps--she said a doctoral student working on her dissertation had come up to her and her friends while studying, saying how envious she was that they were able to read anything and everything about music history, as writing a dissertation narrows your focus so much. She (Marian) also said how much fun she had studying for her comps. One piece of information leads to another and another--my cue cards are certainly evidence to that.

I can't exactly say I'm having "fun" studying for this final comp of mine. I fly out on Sunday, and the written exam is on Monday. I can, however, see how research can be addictive. You know you're in the right field when your excitement level rises, and you only want to learn more, soaking up every bit of information you can find. Well, my spongey brain is pretty much full, and I feel unprepared for this test. I have been studying for months, but my time has always been split. This is one time I'm glad I don't have children yet (did I just write those words??), as I can't imagine doing this with a family. It was hard enough trying to find time to practice at all when I was doing my doctoral course work. I had one class that had so much reading (and I'm a slow reader) that I was in the library for six hours a day. That was on top of classes, rehearsals, teaching and writing any assignments. I'm so grateful those days are over. Of course they were replaced with more playing jobs, studying for mega tests, more rehearsals, flying instead of driving in for tests, lecture-document proposals...

Being away from the day-to-day academic life has made me appreciate the joys of life without school! I am in this limbo now, with a new house and "life without tests" begging to begin. My backyard is bare and wants trees to be planted. I want to start a family. I want to read those dozens of books that are still living in unpacked cardboard boxes. Des Moines (a great town, by the way) is a very short day-trip away from many major cities that I've never visited. A great friend and motivator to me--shout-out to Elaine!--said that now is the time for me. "It's my time in the academic spotlight." Everything else can wait. It'll still be there when I get back. And so I have worked hard recently, blocking out everything but my test (and a term paper that needed to be completed—finished yesterday morning!). Yesterday, I studied for about 10 hours. I'm on a break right now, and I need to get back to it. On one hand, this is exciting like Marian said. I'd be reading about Schutz, get sidetracked to sacred symphonies, and forget where I started. On the other hand, there is just an endless amount of information out there. It's overwhelming. I know I can't be expected to know everything, but "the more I learn, the less I know."

I have friends who can't get enough of school. One is finishing her dissertation, will defend this summer and is eager to start ANOTHER doctorate because she loves school so much. I've been in school for so long, that maybe once it's all over, I'll feel those pangs of separation anxiety as well. I've already talked to some Simpson College colleagues of Dave's, and I may take some classes, or at the very least audit one or two...when I've had some down time after my degree is completed. For now, I need to stay focused for these last few hurdles, one of which is looming large. Wish me luck on Monday and Thursday next week (oral component); this will hopefully be my last exam!

Back to Beethoven…or was it Babbitt?


Mary said...

best of luck, just keep your focus, and let the composers walk you through it!

Karmen said...

I'll be sending you some good vibes Jilly!

I love the new pic, by the way!