Sunday, 10 March 2013

It's Complicated

My relationship status with my thesis; well, it’s complicated. Let me Count the Ways. (My apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning.) 

First, in the short term, it’s complicated “to the level of everyday’s most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.” In the midst of third quarter classes, group projects, term papers, and externship work, you must develop a thesis topic and outline – a short-term goal with long-term consequences. Not only must you commit to a topic and outline, but you must find a thesis supervisor and second reader. Although you will devote the entire fourth quarter to writing your thesis, you must lay the foundation now, in the midst of all those more pressing short term deadlines. So easy to neglect the forest for the trees!  

Second, in the long term, it’s complicated “to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach, when feeling out of sight.” Hard to believe, but you are past the halfway point of the program and must think about post-grad goals. Deadlines loom for applying for various jobs, internships, PhD positions, both in and outside the Netherlands. Your thesis is a tree in a much larger forest, one to plant with care.  

Third, in terms of the “big picture,” it is complicated “with the passion put to use in my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.” You find yourself again pondering, what do I want to be when I grow up? And where and how do I want to live my life? In considering that forest, it is easy to forget all about the trees – until you trip over their roots or smack right into one as you gaze beyond the tree line. Third quarter is a nesting doll of decisions, a crossroads of many paths and possibilities. It is complicated “with the breath, smiles, tears, of all my life!”  

Which thesis topic, which career path, and which Road Not Taken? (My apologies to Robert Frost.) “And both that morning equally lay; In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I marked the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way; I doubted if I should ever come back.” Yes, life is about choice and choice is about loss; in choosing one thing you forego another. But choices must still be made.  

And so, “I shall be telling this with a sigh; Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” No, this really isn’t about glorifying the “less traveled” road; both roads are equally untrodden. It is about indecision, justifying a choice arbitrarily made, all the while wondering wistfully where the other road may have led. At the poorly marked crossroads of desire and regret, you just strike a path and hope for the best.  

So, have I chosen a thesis topic? Do I know how that will fit into a career path and the bigger picture? I have narrowed it down to two possibilities. Well, maybe three. Soon I must pick one, declare myself “in a relationship,” and see where it goes. In the meantime, my apologies for straying thoughts, but it’s complicated!

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