All / Originally Posted on Skirt

Things to Do if You’re Avoiding Writing that Last Chapter (apart from the introduction and conclusion) of Your PhD

Yes, that’s right, folks!  I’m currently writing the first draft of the last chapter of my PhD.  That is, apart from the introduction and conclusion which don’t count as actual chapters because the first one is going to say, “This is what I’m about to say!” and the last one is going to say, “This is what I just said!”  Though possibly without the exclamation points, because my PhD is Very Serious. 

Except that I’m not actually writing the draft this moment because instead, I’m sitting here writing to you.  I was planning to write a blog on Thanksgiving in England, which I’ve held annually since I arrived in the same year as my best friend from the time I was six who happens to be doing her PhD in London.  (Apart from last year, when funnily enough we were both out of the country.)  I was going to write about the Libby’s Canned Pumpkin shortage and how we were lucky because my mom sends us a box of Thanksgiving Preparedness including decorations (mainly consisting of small candles in the shapes of turkeys and pilgrims, which usually wind up in some sort of spontaneous Thanksgiving pageant every year before getting their little heads burnt off), paper plates, and that all-important can of pumpkin each year in September, which meant we missed the Great Pumpkin Scare of ’09.  

But then I realized that I’ve been doing much more procrastinating lately than that, and really it all deserves a little reportage.  For example, as the desk in my bedroom faces a window that overlooks the Exeter fire station, I’m currently watching some firemen play on what I’m going to call the “practicing how to get people out of burning buildings” tower.  It’s not actually on fire, but they’ve got an emergency backboard out, and some random bits of cable, and harnesses and stuff.  Go, little firemans! 

Last Friday night I decided to go out for drinks; I gave two talks last week and I decided I deserved a small reward (despite not having produced any verbiage for my chapter).  Sadly none of my normally quite alcoholophilic friends were available, so I did something I hadn’t done in a long time: shoved a book in my purse and went out by myself.  

What? I hear you say, A young lady going out on a Friday night all by herself?  Surely an invitation for impertinence and impropriety.  Well, sort of.  I mean, I know other people sometimes percieve it in that way.  But the trick is: go to a well-lit bar that has seating, sit where the bar staff can see you, and bring something to look at so you’re not just staring around at the crowd.  It is true that a book can act as a conversation opener, but if somebody’s really bothering you, it’s also a handy tool with which to facially smack them.  Heavy books like “War and Peace” are best for this sort of thing, but they may strain your shoulder en route.  And besides, who says I don’t want a conversation opener occasionally?

In this way I met: an old guy who tried to kiss me on the grounds that it was Christmas until I dissuaded him by repeating that there wasn’t any mistletoe around and his embarrassed friends dragged him off, a young Ian Hislop lookalike, and a very confused-looking freshman out drinking with his parents who were visiting him at University for the first time.  This last encounter was my favorite because after letting his dad buy him a couple rounds of shots Mr. Freshman was swaying precariously by 10:30 and had to walk home, while his parents stayed on and chatted with me about my PhD.  Good fun.

Mistletoe was also (or perhaps I should say, was actually) a feature of the jiu jitsu Christmas dinner on Tuesday night–mainly because I brought it!  To my infinite regret I didn’t manage to get caught under it a single time, despite some very determined lurking.  I got in a little procrastination overtime Tuesday afternoon before the party when I went to get the prizes for the club awards.  Some of the awards were serious and some were ironic, but all the prizes were definitely tongue-in-cheek.  Seeing as I’m on an advice-giving kick today, the secret of a successful awards ceremony is to go to your nearest dollar (or pound) store and pick out the silliest things you can find that somehow have a connection with the award you’re presenting.  Things that light up, bounce, or squish tend to be particular favorites, though on this occasion the most coveted item appeared to be a pair of socks emblazoned “Jedi Knight” on the side. 

Another excellent procrastination tool when trying to avoid the final chapter of your PhD is picking kleenex lint off your underpants even though you swore you checked all your pockets before sticking that last load in the laundry.  There must be kleenex gnomes living in the back of the washing machine who wait all week just to go “hee hee hee!” as they sprinkle tissue debris all over my clothes.  One day I will catch them, and I will smack them.  There, another way to procrastinate.

And now that  I have bestowed all these informative techniques upon you, I have noticed that the firemen are no longer scurrying up and down the “practicing how to rescue people from burning buildings” tower, which is probably a sign that I should get to work and finish the first draft of the last chapter of my PhD (apart from the introduction and conclusion)!