One thing I didn’t learn in my now 20+ years of education was how to write a dissertation. Fellow students and professors have told me not to think of the dissertation as the end; it’s not my life’s work but only the beginning of my life’s work. I know they mean well, but whilst deep in the throes of dissertation writing—when my thoughts are sticky and globby, when I can’t understand the article I just read, when I’m not making sense to myself anymore—I think, “And this is only the beginning?!”
In a way, though, this kind of encouragement is misleading. The dissertation is an end of sorts. It’s the culmination of years of study, research, and fieldwork. It’s a liminal space (oh no, that word!), a place of becoming. One final rite of passage as a student. And as such, it’s freaking me out.