I submitted my thesis last night...all 100 pages! (I was excited that it ended up being such a great, round and even number). I can't believe it's done. I'm not sure if I've ever worked so hard on something in my life. I was trying to think of all the hours it took up and I really don't think I can count them. Let's just say, I'm not gonna know what it's like to not have work to do before I go to work in the morning or as soon as I get off at night and I won't be spending all weekend at my computer. I'm not going to miss scheduling interviews at lunchtime, dreaming about coding data or spending 12 hours a day looking at a screen. I feel like I'm about to re-enter society! I'm currently laying in my bed as I type this on my phone because my body and mind vetoed my attempt to actually sleep in until 8 today. I let it sink in that I was done with my thesis and naturally, because I think too much, I started thinking about all I learned this semester through this process. So, naturally, I made a top ten list.
1. Things that are worth it are hard. I could have taken a lot of shortcuts through this process, but I didn't. I actually really do care about what I researched and I wanted to produce a thesis done with excellence. Producing this was really hard, but worth it.
2. I have the best community ever. I wouldn't have made it the last couple months if it wasn't for my family and friends. When I think about how great everyone is I get emotional because I'm just so fortunate to know such awesome people and that I get to have them in my life (I'm allowed to be emotional aboht these things...I just completed a milestone). I actually could really feel the prayers of so many people and the texts, calls and gifts kept me going. The fact that I have friends and family who would transcribe interviews, edit chapter after chapter, let me cry and assure me it'll be okay and make sure we celebrate even the little victories is amazing. My people y'all are the best kind of people.
3. It's okay to say no. I became very familiar with the phrase, "I just don't have the capacity for that." I've learned that sometimes you just have to say no and everything will still be okay. Not gonna lie, still not great at this and am not always good at doing this without pounds of guilt accompanying it, but I'm working on it.
4. Even when you don't think you have time to take care of yourself, you have time to take care of yourself. I'm not just mentioning this because my whole thesis is about self-care, but because it's actually true. Through this whole process (full disclosure: at least up until the last two weeks or so) I have tried to make a conscious effort to still love and take care of myself through the crazy. Not only was I working on my thesis and had another class, but this is one of the busiest times for work too and there was always something that needed to be done. But sometimes, I just took a nap or watched an episode of Parks and Rec (I mean they're only 20 minutes and it's the best show ever...) I also tried to get 8 hours of sleep most nights, I truly think being proactive in caring for ourselves results in more productivity and helps you keep your sanity. I wasn't always great at this in all aspects (don't even ask me the last time I worked out) but I could tell a notable difference from when I felt like I was consciously choosing to care for myself and my soul.
5. Good music matters. Pandora was my BFF for this process, also my "Grad School motivation playlist." The Explosions in the Sky, John Legend and Ingrid Michaelson stations were in heavy rotation. I love music and listening to it while I work makes me feel like I'm not alone in it...(as I typed that I realized that may be weird but it's true)
6. I am highly motivated by rewards and incentives. Yes, call me a child or a puppy, but the range of incentives I made for myself during this process were sometimes ridiculous and comical but effective.
7. The mountains help me think and give me life. I was fortunate enough to get away for a weekend to Gatlinburg to work on the bulk of my research and it was awesome. I had a clear mind, got to be creative and was surrounded by mountains. Even though I barely left the hotel room and I worked 15 hour days, it was life-giving.
8. Sometimes knowing you're not alone is all it takes to give you the extra push to get it done. I loved the group messages between me and my classmates and knowing we were all working on this together.
9. It's okay to borrow belief from others sometimes. There were times I wasn't sure I could finish this or felt like what I was doing wasn't good enough or really valuable, but there was always someone around me reminding me those were lies and who believed I could do it. Sometimes when we don't believe a truth, we have to momentarily borrow the belief from someone we love until we believe it ourselves.
10. Every season ends. This was a season. A long, hard, emotional, rewarding, but intense season. Amidst all the work, it's also been a difficult personal time for different reasons, but knowing this was just a season kept me sane at times.
I actually cannot believe my thesis is submitted and I graduate next week! The last two and a half years have been a crazy time. I've learned more than I thought, been continuously blessed by the people I've met through this program and I've grown a lot. I am so thankful for this season, but I'm ready to move into this next season carrying all that I learned through this one with me.
(For real...a HUGE thank you to all of my family and friends and all of your love and support through this grad school season. If I could take out a billboard to brag about how awesome and wonderful you all are, I would...not to be too dramatic or anything) ;-)