Hello my dears, how are you?
I am exhausted but relieved. I passed my viva, emerging with minor corrections, so you may now address me as Dr Nessie Monster!
I slept for 11 hours straight last night and feel somewhat more human today, although I am yet to get out of my pajamas and red fluffy dressing-gown.
I can’t believe the viva is over and went so smoothly. It was difficult at first and there was a bit of scrabbling for answers to the more general questions at the beginning but once we got into the specifics of my text and experiments, it was fine. The first thing they did was congratulate me on producing one of the best written theses they’d read in years, that was also clearly structured, which is high praise from such experienced examiners. Their biggest criticism was a lack of illustrative diagrams for the signalling pathways and cross-talk mechanisms, and that, as with many students, I hadn’t spent enough time in “fantasy land” in the Discussion Chapter. I could have been far more explicit and specific about what I would do next if I had all the money, resources and time in the world, and if I had the opportunity to start over, what I would do differently. However, as I was able to talk about that at length in the viva, it wasn’t a major stumbling block.
The main thing about the viva is that it felt like it was over soooooo quickly! It took three hours on the dot, on the grounds that my external examiner “doesn’t do vivas longer than three hours because my brain turns to mush”, which, fair play to her! Vivas have been known to run on as long as five hours… *shudder*
My best personal achievements were that a) I didn’t cry once and b) I didn’t get the hiccups. Given that I get hiccups all the time, most every day, and that I was in tears of panic and despair on and off all morning prior to the viva at 2pm, both of these things were blessings.
The hilarity and angst of being on the phone to my supervisor the morning of my viva to have him talk *at* me for 45 minutes straight and then say at the end of the phone call “you seem really calm and in the right frame of mind” cannot be conveyed through mere words. Since my side of the conversation consisted solely of “yes”, “uh huh”, and “ok” repeated ad nauseam, Squishy, who hasn’t actually heard me on the phone to my supervisor prior to that conversation, was fairly outraged and not at all surprised my supervisor had the wrong end of the stick about my frame of mind that morning.
It was after all my dearest Squishy who held me while I sobbed and whimpered in bed the night before the viva, at 6am on the day of when I woke up from a bad dream, and all morning after I got up at 9am.
The deep terror and belief that I would fail the viva had been haunting me for weeks, and whilst it is now over and I have emerged triumphant, it doesn’t seem the slightest bit real. I would go so far as to say it’s an anti-climax after all the emotional energy I have expended on the damn thing over the last two months.
I am Doctor Nessie Monster now and can call myself as such. I’ve been signing my name as “Dr” in texts and emails and on FB but it feels rude, presumptuous and arrogant, which is ridiculous, because I should be proud of what I have achieved and shouldn’t be ashamed to mention it.
It’s so wierd to feel that way when everyone else is busy congratulating me and declaring how proud they are of my achievements, and how it’s all paid off at last, when all I want to do is hide in bed and sleep for a week. I don’t even feel elated or joyful or ecstatic. I just want to cry and hide. And I have no idea if that’s a common immediate post-PhD feeling or not. It’s certainly nothing like how I felt after I submitted the hard copies of my thesis.
Also because of the necessary corrections I need to make (it is possible to fail your PhD by failing to make the required changes!), and the academic paper writing that still needs to be done, the PhD is not actually over yet, nor am I entirely free.
Regardless of these inconvenient matters, succeeding in the Viva Voce exam represents a huge change in my life, an acknowledgement of what I’ve been working towards for the last five years, or two decades, depending on how you look at it. (Ugh, yes, I have spent two whole decades in formal education – what madness!). It’s also the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. I am now free to really consider what I want to do next and apply for the full-time, “real world”, “grown-up” jobs I’ve been avoiding since I started my undergrad education the year of the Financial Crisis, the consequent Economic Collapse and the resulting Great Recession.
I don’t really have a positive note to end on because I don’t yet feel positive about the matter but I do trust that my feelings will change over the next few weeks and that as I keep busy at my temp admin job and in moving house to be with Squishy, normality will reassert itself.
Dr Nessie Monster