I think I'm tiring of inventing titles for blog posts. It's tiresome enough to do this for things that we publish for professional judgment; must we submit to the tyranny of the title as bloggers?
Anyway. I think I'm getting my bearings on this recent attack of insecurity about my place in the department, relative to Supersmart. I went to another friend's defense on Wednesday. (Notice, by the way, how many of us are defending all at once? Not a coincidence, that.) Zi has spent a seriously long time in grad school, largely due to family obligations. I expect those of you who have been through grad school, and remember how many years of your life it comprised, will understand what I mean by a student who took an exceptionally long time. Of course, this also means that zi has had many years to synthesize hir research data. Hir dissertation must be really smoothed out and mirror-polished by now.
Except it wasn't. Hir committee assailed hir for a lack of coherence of certain ideas propagated therein, as well as an inability to link various threads together. I can only wonder how they could mount such a criticism when they're all supposed to be coaching the student through this in the first place. This student's chair is considerably more on point than my own Dr. Chair, and can/should intervene before it comes to such harsh words at the defense.
In the end, the student passed, but with significant required revisions, such that zi will have to complete them over the summer, and thus graduate over the summer. (Among other things, this means that zi cannot walk in the big commencement ceremony next month with me.) Zi had told us -- hir fellow students, that is -- that zi knew there would be required revisions, but I can't say how surprised zi was to hear the extent of them. The post-defense drink was decidedly downbeat.
And, continuing my emotional education, today I attended another friend's defense. This latest one went much better, and zi passed with no revisions at all. (Other than a request to clean up typos, which really doesn't count.) I felt another wave of shame and -- let's just say it -- envy upon seeing how in tune the whole committee was with the work, and how supportive they all were of what my friend had written. I got a handle on it (more or less) by reminding myself of what I had seen mere days ago, and by observing to myself that this student, like a few other of my friends, had far more conducive writing conditions than I had. (To wit: Stateside field research, and a loving and supportive partner. Supersmart was another one of these lucky ones.) In other words, like Dr. Crazy and Flavia have commented, there will always be those both more and less impressive than I at any given point, and comparing myself to others in this regard isn't very productive.
So I haven't truly stopped envying my friends who had stellar defenses full of helpful and kindly interventions, but I can make use of what I got at my defense. And, lest I feel too sorry for myself, no less a person than one of the members on the passed-with-revisions student's committee told me that I should be thrilled that I was passed with such minimal revisions. (And zi should know, I suppose!) And really, zi is right: I passed with light revisions, and can/will walk in this year's graduation, rather than next year's, and need not spend another semester in grad school. What the fuck do I have to complain about, other than petty emotional hang-ups?
2 years ago