Monday, April 23, 2012

Happy Birthday, Thesis!

Today is my thesis' first birthday -- yes, the six-month tormentor of my days and nights has turned one year old!  I know, normally people probably don't remember the exact dates of things like this, but I accept that I am an oddity.  Just for fun, here's what I wrote that day (April 23, 2011) after finishing those last few words:
I'm in a state of shock at the moment.  As of 10:00 am today, the horrible, monstrous, insidious, ill-formed offspring of my feeble mind, also known as my thesis, which has plagued me like a host of ten thousand camels tap-dancing on my shoulders in combat boots, is finally written.  I actually wrote a thesis.  I contributed something original, something on a topic which has not been covered, to the field of history.   
Forgive me while I faint. 
Okay, had to get that out of my system - the faint, not the shock.  No, I'm still in shock.  I honestly never thought I'd be able to do it.  I mean, have you ever considered what actually goes into writing a thesis?  It is no ordinary paper.  No reading a few books and then jotting down what you learned.  For my thesis, I read 62 books, countless journal articles, more than 1,000 pages worth of US foreign affairs cables, more than 2,000 pages of declassified OSS documents, several US presidential executive orders, and a couple dozen newspaper articles.  Oh, and I did that this semester . . . the same semester that I wrote the thesis.  That would be why I am just now finishing the creature. 
It's an odd sort of feeling, looking at the stack of pages that I created.  I'm not sure yet whether to tenderly regard it as my beloved child or as a grotesquely mutilated fetus that somehow survived to make it out of the womb.  I suppose I shall have to reserve judgment until my committee has reviewed the creature.
 The funny part is, even after a year, I still haven't fully figured out how I view my thesis.  I still regard it with half pride and half revulsion.  I am far enough removed from it to now be able to feel a glimmer of appreciation at my writing (I'm not meaning to boast; I just think I did a good job), but I still cringe when I suddenly think of things I should have done differently.  I guess this is evidence that I probably shouldn't go ahead and turn it into a book -- I don't think I'm cut out to be another Geoffrey Wawro.
Jasper "helps" me with research.

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"