Behind-the-scenes of thesis-making.

Today, I went back to the first chapter my supervisors ever commented on.

This page from March 2014 came back to me with tea blotches, accompanied by a lengthy email bearing feedback… and this super gold one-liner:

“My apologies for the tea I spilled on p. 9 :(“

I distinctly remember chuckling when I first saw this, attempting to visualize what my supes were doing, where they were, and how they felt when reviewing my work. Clearly this supe was having tea!

I’ve had my supervisors (and they’ve had me!) for over a year now, but seeing/reading this one comment again today – 59 days to submission (!!! cue panic and horror !!!) – is stirring up some premature nostalgia in me.

I’m onto my eighth and last semester as a PhD Candidate now, but have had to spend the first seven juggling several casual jobs and doing a PhD full-time. As a result, I haven’t had the opportunity/privilege to sit in a spot for long hours on end to make words happen.

During one period, I was working up to seven casual jobs and sleeping only four hours a day to make ends meet. But I was really determined to get the thesis done and kept writing in the little nuggets of time I could siphon.

A lot of my thesis was written on the go: On my iPhone while commuting, on the laptop while my partner ferried me between jobs, on the Uni library computers when I had short breaks between teaching slots, in ink on paper whenever I had spare moments hanging out at friends’ houses.

I think I have developed some place-based affect for several portions of my thesis. For instance, I extensively rewrote Chapter 2 during a four-day writing retreat that I took time off work to attend. Chapter 3 was written in the wee hours of the morning whenever I had short breaks at my (over-)night job. I conceptualized most of Chapter 7 in Singapore while catching up with an old friend late into the night. Chapters 8 and 9 were written from scratch in under a week each during my stint at the MMTC in Jönköping.

I also need to acknowledge all the cafes, libraries, airports, and houses of friends I’ve crashed with for the goodness of free WiFi. This Internet researcher thanks you!

It feels so surreal that in the past four months in Jönköping and Melbourne, my only obligations have been to wake up, head to campus, and write my thesis. This is a very beautiful life that I am very thankful to have finally experienced, and I am immensely grateful for the mentors who have made this happen for me.

But tonight, these tea blotches are reminding me of how I made it till here – to 59 days to submission (!!! cue panic and horror again !!!) – and I am feeling just a little bit more sentimental (and melodramatic) than usual.

This behind-the-scenes of thesis-making is very precious.

I will miss it one day in the future.

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