Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The day has nearly come.
My thesis defense is tomorrow. Tomorrow.

One hour upon which to judge an entire year of work and research.

Some professors try to be reassuring: this is not to belittle you, it's not a firing squad, it's a group of well-informed people whose attention is on nothing but you and your work for an hour, they have your best interests at heart, are invested in you, want you to succeed, and are there to help you tie the last ends together. Others say different; it's a bloodbath, it's a test.

Despite attending many thesis-defenses over the years, and having freshly watched two of my fellow drawing peers go through the process this week, I still couldn't tell you which opinion is more accurate.

I realize that after my hour is done, everything is done. The work is done, the anxiety is done, the beast will be put to rest. For better or for worse, it will be the end. I realize that unless I run out half way, refuse to take a stand, or blatantly don't show up, I will not fail. For those reasons I feel great excitement and anticipation to finish and close the book, be the ending good or bad, pleasant or painful, and to move on to the next.

But until then the anxiety builds. My self-doubt has possibly reached a new height. As I develop and rehearse the small speech I will have to say tomorrow, every word feels precarious and deadly. Every word feels like a snare. I fear that my own words will be my undoing. I doubt whether I understand my own work, whether I can defend it. Every weakness I show will be pried open, poked, and exposed.

Perhaps that is salt in the wound; while it hurts, it serves to clean, to heal.

I try to reassure myself that life goes on, and in the big scope of things this one, small hour of my life will matter very little. I drive through the park and I see the trees, the people out, the river flowing, and I notice that how my defense goes will not matter to any of them. I come home to Brogan who jumps and smiles and cries with excitement, and realize that to him it makes no difference at all. I sit with my neighbours and family around the fire at the weekend and reassure myself that these patterns and things will continue on, unchanged, unfazed, unaffected whatsoever by this one hour. 

But such weight has been put on it! From your first semester as a freshman to the final applaud at the end of your defense you are reminded that this is the crux of your time at school. You are reminded that your four or five years of work will all amount to this one, hour-long performance. There is an incredible degree of fuss and pressure over it. This is not easy to ignore despite how hard I try.

Emotions are split fifty fifty; excitement and anxiety. I look at my peers who are done and see them glowing with happiness and relief despite however good or bad their time at the gallows went.

I must keep reminding myself how little it matters. I must keep reminding myself that it is one mere hour. If I don't, if I let myself succumb to the pressure, I will fall even harder.

For better or for worse, come 5:30pm tomorrow, I will be done.

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