I love reflecting and dreaming. It's shocking, right? I get into deeper reflection mode in December as I soak up the past year and think about my dreams for the future. It has been another year of wonderful opportunities, tough challenges, amazing people and living out my passions. While reflecting on this past year, I realized I don't take enough time to soak up my accomplishments. I probably spend more time appreciating the little things in life, but I think it's also important to value reaching certain goals.
One of those moments was FINALLY finishing my thesis.
Last month, I walked across the NAC stage, shook Michaelle Jean’s hand and got my master’s degree. It’s pretty surreal writing this post, considering the fact I didn’t think I would actually finish. If you ask my friends, the thesis updates were rarely positive!
But it’s done and I’m writing this post. Woo!
The past three years have been quite the journey. There were many tears and low points, but I’m glad I pushed through. Here are 10 lessons I’ve learned from writing my thesis.
- What if you lose your passion? Sorry to break it to you, but this will happen. You won’t always feel passionate and will probably want to quit many times. This was a huge struggle for me, especially as someone who advocates for people to follow their passions. Sometimes, you need to suck it up and do it.
- Tough love goes a long way. Have blunt people in your life who will tell it like it is. When I told one of my closest friends I wasn’t passionate about my thesis and wanted to quit, she gave me some tough love. She told me I had come this far, couldn’t give up and had to finish what I started – even if I wasn't passionate about my work. This conversation was a turning point in which I committed to finishing what I started.
- Trust your gut. My thesis changed drastically from my original vision. I didn’t trust myself on how I wanted to do it, which made writing a challenge (i.e. critical discourse analysis isn't the most exciting methodology). If trusting your gut means putting more work on the front end, do it.
- Find the cheerleaders. You’re going to stare at your computer for many, many days. You won’t write anything. You’ll waste a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. You'll probably cry. When you’re in those spots, surround yourself with people who will encourage, support and ask you how you’re doing. When you don’t believe it, others can keep the faith.
- Reward yourself. Set mini goals instead of focusing on the end product. The finish line will overwhelm you. I often rewarded myself with going to the gym or hanging out with friends. It's okay to take a break. And it's okay to cry.
- Have work friends. My supervisor set up group meetings every week, which were really helpful to keep me on task and stay motivated. It was nice to be around people who were going through the same process, and could encourage and give feedback.
- Add a new discourse. It’s exciting to think I’ve added a new discourse to academia and documented Capital Slam’s history. Many people talked about the lack of female poets in the scene, and I got to deeply investigate the community and put that story in the public sphere. There's also limited research on slam poetry (especially in Canada), so it's neat to add a new discourse.
- A piece of paper matters. I had numerous arguments with friends about this piece of paper. I constantly questioned if it really mattered. They said yes. I know that doing a master’s degree in women’s studies has opened up several doors for me. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t want my lack of a piece of paper to prevent me from certain opportunities.
- Where’s your focus? My thesis was never my focus, so that’s why it took me an extra year to complete. If I had acknowledged that sooner and was okay with taking a bit longer, then I wouldn't have been so hard on myself. Since I didn't focus on my thesis, I could pursue some other great opportunities.
- A good thesis is a finished thesis. This was great advice from my friend. My thesis wasn't perfect and there were many ways I could've taken it, but I finished it. Someone else can take up where I left off and hopefully it'll help someone who's doing research on slam poetry.
And remember, don't be so hard on yourself. Writing a thesis (or any essay or project) can be really challenging. When you need some encouragement, watch this scene from The Waterboy. I'm living proof that you can do it!
When you have chance, please check out my thesis on Capital Slam’s poetry scene: Where My Girls At? A Critical Discourse Analysis of Gender, Race, Sexuality, Voice and Activism in Ottawa's Capital Slam Poetry Scene.
Here's a quick abstract:
Ottawa’s Capital Slam poetry scene has transformed over the past decade, marking a shift in the identities, discourses and performance styles of local poets. This thesis investigates these changes and trends within the time periods of 2008-2010 and 2012-2014.
This thesis demonstrates the shift from male poets of colour in 2008-2010 to female voices in 2012-2014 at Capital Slam, through an examination of Ottawa’s history and a multimodal critical discourse analysis of online performances. In particular, the creation of local alternative poetry shows over the past five years has increased the representation of female poets and transformed the racial dynamics of the scene.
During the period 2008-2010 and 2012-2014, poets used key historical elements of slam poetry such as storytelling and speaking through personal experiences to effectively demonstrate how marginalized individuals can speak counter-narratives to dominant culture. The use of storytelling allowed these poets to engage, connect and dialogue with the audience, as well as demonstrate their different identities, discourses and performance styles.
What are some lessons you've learned from writing a thesis, paper or finishing a project?