Friday, April 29, 2011

- A Rollercoaster

My final error free dissertation has to be on file by 5pm TODAY.  I tried not to wait until the last minute but dissertations really suck.  I spent a lot of time staring at this thing in November.   I missed Thanksgiving with my family for it.  I wasn't exactly ready to go back for more just yet.

But it had to be done.  I fought margins, stupid advice from the thesis editor (isn't she paid to know these things?), and good God if someone doesn't make page numbers easier a grad student might die.  At one point I had two page numbers layered on top of each other in two fonts - why is that even allowed to be possible?  I considered shutting the door to my office so I could cry in the corner...over page numbers.  I lost hours of my life in the last week stressing over a completely inanimate object that will never care for me the way that I have for it.

Then, I thought I was finished.  I read through it like a million times to check for spelling and grammar and  I spent more time with this thing than I ever did my M.S. thesis, which is a total piece of crap based on formatting quality (not content - that was awesome).  Anyways, I send it off to Dr. Truong (side note: he calls me Dr. Laurie in emails and I LOVE it) and he noticed a mathematical error.  At first I was angry because I mean - I defended those numbers.  How come he didn't catch that before?  How come I didn't catch that before?  I fix it and all of the numbers change.  This affects my statistics.  I flip out.  I post this facebook status: Laurie found a mathematical error in her dissertation (awesome) and has to re-run SAS (awesomer) but can't remember her program and is pretty sure she threw away the piece of paper she wrote it on because she thought she would never need it again (awesomest).  In the middle of a glass of wine I have a super genius moment and fix everything in like 2 minutes.  Now my dissertation is mathematically accurate and I am not required to stress anymore.  This is potentially one of the most incorrect thoughts I have ever had...and I've been wrong about a lot of things.  I mean I thought the royal wedding was last weekend and on a Saturday.

I spend even more time agonizing over captions and gridlines and table placement and margins and capital letters and abbreviations and for the love of God, I'm spent.  I think I could recite it from memory at this point which means it's time to convert this baby to a PDF.  And wouldn't you know it, not even converting the file type can go smoothly.  When I do this on my work PC every degree sign on every graph PEACED OUT.  So, I try on my Mac and not only do I not get degree signs, but now it gets separated into 9 documents because 9 is better than 1, right?  NO.  Turns out that in Word for Mac if you use a section break which is necessary to go from portrait to landscape formatting within the same document it will take all those sections and save them as individual PDF's.  But the thesis editor doesn't want 9 PDF files, and there's no way to merge them together.

I decide to download a trial version of Adobe onto my work computer.  Turns out, the "General" doesn't like people trying to install software on his computers, so he shut that idea down pretty quick.  I'm essentially back to square one and end up just emailing my old secretary and begging for her to take care of this for me because she's awesome and nice and I will send her a check for whatever amount she wants to just fix this.  But she has the same problem, so in a fit of desperation I call the thesis editor and she redeems herself by FIXING IT.  All of it.  The moral of the story: Doing things yourself is completely overrated.  I have screamed so much about PDF's I am literally a little bit hoarse.  If you don't know what a PDF is then your quality of life is exponentially better than mine.

At this point I would like to take this opportunity to give you some advice: Make sure that you REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY want a Ph.D. before signing on the line.  Seriously think about what you're willing to sacrifice.  Because this process takes a long time to die.  It will haunt your dreams, rob you of your health (physical and most certainly emotional) and break you into a sad pathetic excuse of a human that constantly feels like an imbecile.  And even after you think it's over and done with, it will find new and creative ways to make your life a living hell.  I still have to make a poster for a conference and compile manuscripts to publish, which means that I get to go through this anywhere from 3-49,851,072,398,415,298,345 more times.  The blow of that realization is softened by the cushy paycheck I receive twice a month...but when I'm crying in a corner that check doesn't hug me and tell me it will be okay.  I have not actually cried in a corner...yet.

But, wine helps.  LOTS and LOTS of wine.  Seriously, I just stock up at the Liquor Barrel 2 for 1 sales.  Even if I have what I would consider "plenty" of wine at home, I buy another box.  Because the only thing scarier than dissertation/manuscript editing is the thought of doing so in the absence of wine...I'm only half joking when I say I might not make it under those circumstances.

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