I know, the photo is blurry.
But it was taken while my best friend was laughing uncontrollably in a quiet coffee shop near my apartment just over one year ago.
Chelsea and I met almost every week for a year to work on our dissertation projects and other graduate school work (I was enrolled in 10 credit hours my final semester of the Ph.D. – more on that in a different post). The Scone Lady was our normal meeting place, and we would sit at a table for 4 and cover it with books, laptops, legal pads, and pages of our research.
On this particular day, I was finalizing some edits on a chapter of my dissertation before moving on to another project for my African Studies class. My process for revision was something like this:
- Send chapter to faculty for feedback.
- Receive feedback
- Print feedback
- Read through the entire chapter with feedback and take notes on necessary changes.
- Start a new document and copy/paste chapter portions, making changes along the way and highlighting sections/pages as I completed them in the revised document.
As you can see, there was a LOT of paper involved in my writing/revising process, but it kept things clear and separate so I could see the changes I was making as I went along. Of course, staples don’t reach through 60+ page documents, so I used paperclips to keep things together.
So the scene happened as follows:
- large green coffee cup on the left was standard for these meetings
- large purple bag full of books; TomBihn bag with my laptop and other materials, included the paper copy of the chapter I was working on
- the pages you see me holding, along with some pages next to the coffee cup
Please note that I am CLUMSY. Like, trip over my own feet in my apartment clumsy. The only exception to this is when I’m dancing in the studio or on stage.
Normally, I like Mondays (Tuesday are usually the worst day of the week for me), but this particular one wasn’t my favorite. I was working through some edits on my dissertation and feeling some frustration and anxiety about the whole process. I knew I would be finished in time, but the pressure of getting my points across clearly and doing justice to my topic and participants was getting to me. I was also in the middle of a breakup, it was the anniversary of my grandfather’s death, and I was unable to run due to a hip injury. And the weather was pretty ugly that day, too.
So I’m sitting at the table with Chelsea and typing through my edits when part of the chapter I’m working on slides of the table…. everywhere. Pages flying and fluttering about like there’s a breeze. Ugh. Fine. I reach down to attempt a rescue of the fallen pages and….
Fall. out. of. my. chair. Onto the floor. In front of the other five people in the coffee shop.
The two older women look slightly concerned, the guy behind the counter tries to focus on the order he’s taking, and Chelsea is trying to stifle her giggles as I sit there on the floor.
It was a metaphor for my feelings that day about my grad school/dissertation process. A total mess. People staring. Not wanting to get off the floor.
So I looked up at Chelsea and she asked if she could include this photo in her “One Second” story for the day on her phone.
So I picked up the pages, raised them in the air, and I started laughing, too. I said, “I need to remember this. That sometimes it’s just a mess of pages all over the floor and I have to put them back together. It’s not all awards and fellowships and flashy trips around the world. THIS, right here, on the floor, is the writing process.”
I wanted to remember that day. The pages all over the floor of the coffee shop day. The day I didn’t want to get up and keep working. And now, over a year later, as Chelsea and I are revising our websites and I’m working as a freelancer with a large degree of uncertainty in my life, I remembered that day.
Maybe because it’s raining today. Maybe because this week is the anniversary of my defense. Maybe because I’m trying to let go of the structures I embrace so readily to impose order on my life.
At any rate, I hope the picture at least made you smile. Happy Monday, everyone!