So, yes yes, yesterday was the big day I wrote my Theory comprehensive exam. I tell you, the night before I felt like I was going to DIE. I went to the NYU library to study and download an article, conveniently so I could stop by Peculiar Pub to say hi to the DWNY peeps and grab a quick bite before more studying. When I kissed MD goodbye before leaving the bar, I felt like a soldier going off to war not knowing if I'd be making it home. Hand to heart, that's how I felt. When I told him and jigglykat
what was expected on the exam, they blanched. Faces white and flat, eyes wide with fear by proxy. It was nice for at least one teeny tiny moment for someone else to understand the magnitude of what stood before me.
I whittled my notes down to author names and bullet points. I then tried to get my brain to associate the author names with the bullet points to trigger my memory. And then I tried to memorize just the names. I sat and rewrote the list from memory, to see what stuck and what didn't. I dragged the list into bed with me and looked at it a few more times before dozing off (with the help of St. Ambien). I had a dream about forgetting to write something on my exam and then getting into a car crash. I woke up before my alarm and looked over my notes again.
Well, something worked because when I sat down at the computer to write my exam I managed to pump out 20 pages. 20 pages - doubled-spaced - in 5 hours. ("Four pages an hour!" as my math wiz father later said). With one bathroom break and one break to down a second Red Bull and take some extra insulin (my sugars shot up at one point, no doubt due to stress). As my friend ME later said, it's likely I'll never be that productive again.
Starved and exhausted after handing in my answer, I toddled out of the building to a nearby cafe and inhaled a mozzarella sandwich in 4 bites after venting/debriefing for a few with MD. Then off I went to Hunter to meet with Mimi Abramovitz. She was really nice, despite the rumors I've heard about her being a narcissistic dragon lady. It could be she was having a good day. It probably didn't hurt that I told her I referenced her in my exam. Well, we talked about the course I'll be teaching this summer, and about why there were no Hunter doctoral students available to teach Policy (she said there are very few Hunter doctoral students interested in policy at the moment which is rather sad). Then she very kindly asked me a bit about my exam and affirmed that I sounded like I knew what I was talking about. I'm sure I came across as very young, very smart, and very sweet. And most importantly, very capable, because I would certainly like to a) get hired again; and b) get thought of well when I go looking for tenure track jobs down the line. Oh, but at the end of our banter I asked her if she was a Jane Austen fan and showed her my copy of "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies." Score one for pop culture with the baby boomer academic rock star. :o)
Afterward, I had this odd, uncomfortable mixed feeling of fatigue and adrenalin. I call it emotional inertia, kind of like when you're driving fast and the car stops and your body is still moving forward. Well, I wound up walking down Park Ave from 79th St. to 38th St. while manically talking with several of my friends and fellow students. It was great to debrief with the other students I'm friendly with who had also taken exams yesterday. We shared our study strategies, thoughts, feelings, and vented about how much we really hate the Comprehensive Exam process. I really see it as a hazing ritual. Some schools require papers demonstrating integration of concepts. Hunter apparently has a take-home exam!
But anyway, still experiencing that feeling of emotional and intellectual inertia, I headed down to Curly's
(my favorite vegetarian restaurant) for dinner with the Jew Crew (TM). My friends nycD, ME and AJ all keep kosher, and relish the opportunity to eat at veggie places that serve things they don't normally get to eat out like nachos with fake chorizo and Cubanos. nycD treated for dinner, and then ME and AJ treated for dessert at Veniero's! ME and I shared a glass of chocolate port which really hit the spot with my pignoli tart. I really needed people around me to help "bring me back down" and they were the perfect group for it. ME has a PhD and AJ is working on his PhD, so they were painfully aware of the emotional/intellectual loop I was in. I'm so grateful to have them.
The oral defense for my exam is set for 5/20 at 9:30am. I will sit with a committee of three faculty members who will ask me questions about what I've written and decide if I pass or not. ME and I have a pact to go see Star Trek at the IMAX that evening. My friend TM (who also has her oral defense on 5/20 at 9:30am) and I have an earlier pact, however, to do some hardcore drinking after meeting with our respective committees. Yah, I don't even care if I'm finished before 11am. Somewhere there is a beer and a scotch with my name on it. Maybe a goldschlager if I'm feeling festive.
I won't get my results until June. It's after the oral that the mental torture truly begins. So, fingers crossed flist that I pass, and that I don't lose my mind waiting for my results. I tell you, this time last week I would *not* have been ready to answer the exam question. I know I can get all Hermione-like, but I really was genuinely ill prepared. Well, something must have stuck for me to be able to write as much as I did. Learning two HUGE grand theories on one's own in such a short time is quite a challenge. If I pass, I will have to check myself against developing too inflated an ego. Anyway, that's sure to be quashed once I get started on my dissertation.
So I think it must surely be evident from this LJ entry that yesterday was a long, full day and that my anxiety is still present but no longer at a lethal dose. I slept very poorly last night. My blood sugars were something of a roller coaster and my mind jumped from one thing to another looking for a willing emotional victim. But I'm still alive and I made it to work today.
There's no rest for the weary. I have exams and papers to grade from my own students (one them sent me an email to wish me luck!). And then I have to prep for the 10-week summer course I'm teaching. This Sunday is the AIDS-Walk NY and 5/31 MD and I are going to this thing with my family. He's also got big Buffyfest shenanigans afoot for 5/27, but I'll post some free publicity about that another time.
Thanks for all your encouragement and support, flist! It was both needed and appreciated.