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Yet Another Bitter, Fatigued Not-Quite-Finished Post


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tl;dr: I don't know why the hell I didn't quit, and now that I have a thesis written and revised and revised it's too late not to quit--can I still quit? Why is it taking a year to write and revise and revise and revise an MA thesis paper?

It's a rude first post, and old hat for certain, and probably one-off on account of drinking and unemployment, but I am beginning to wonder how many times I need to be told to re-write my thesis by how many people. I simply am losing any interest in replicating the work again, and again, and again, and in traveling two hours for meetings--meetings which were few and far between during the semester I was supposed to be finishing my MA. It's especially jarring when my advisor actually read my f*cking chapters and gave feedback for the first time in about two years, but then some other professor, not on the committee, felt the need to intervene and question the quality of my scholarship--which is so vague that I don't think it can't not be an insult.

I know my scholarship can't be that bad because I don't seem to run into trouble with conference talks. Maybe it's just this paper, which has been crippling. I wish I knew what to complain about, but I don't know that I do anymore. I'm tired of f*ckng blaming myself, trying as hard as I can and only facing what seems like a mixture of neglect and hostility from the people who are supposed to help me. This feels like a co-dependency, not a degree.

I guess I can complain: no one was a good fit to be my advisor, I regularly couldn't fill my coursework schedule without taking classes outside the department then running into severe theory-and-method-shock; easily more than half my actual courses consisted of two or three grads wasting their time sitting in undergrad sessions listening to rich kids show off their ignorance then getting that "don't ask 700 level questions in front of undergrads" look from the professor about once every two weeks; my "advisor" was too busy filling a tenure file to advise or read more than twenty pages of my thesis; the lack of clear expectations or explanations outside of the one-page program summary listed required numbers of hours; the inability for anyone to answer me asking for so much as reading recommendations, etc.

I left the business world to get into academia and now I am wondering if my wife wasn't putting shroom-sticks in the coffee since I can't get back in fast enough... I approached my professors as if we had a professional relationship, I never asked for help without showing I had put in substantial effort on my own, I never showed up hungover, I never flirted with faculty and never hit on undergrads, I never even made jokes about drug use in class, I never talked about personal problems, I never broke down crying or even acted like I was disappointed, I always made small talk, and I never wore sweat pants into class. I can drop all sorts of names into a paper or I can take them out. What the hell do these people want? It's like they want me to spend a dozen pages on theory and three on method, then tell me there's too much theory, then I trim the theory down or throw it out and write a lot of method, then they tell me there's too much method, then I try to balance it, then they tell me it's not good scholarship, then i try to remove my voice from the writing and they say it's too awkward, then...

That's not me having a pity-party, it's me wondering why the hell I didn't see all these warning signs and quit semesters before I spent a dozen hours a day writing and re-writing, or spending most of my life in the library ignoring my wife and dog and trying to play catch-up for courses in which I had no background and in which the professors seemed only willing to meander on without any framework for introduction, let alone supposed course content, and without any eye to providing much in the way of standards. I remember trying to explain to one of my friends at another program that there were very few course options and very few had any overlap with my subject-matter and he really didn't seem to think it was normal. That was funny--it was all I knew.

The thing I really don't get is why the fuck I can't just get the damn degree (an MA! a two-year (two and half? three? four?)!! program) with mediocre work. There is so much mediocre scholarship out there and so much of it is totally unreadable. There's even more consisting of clever regurgitations of others' work consisting of nothing more than the change of a single word in a lynchpin concept. I'm over this, but have too much skin in the game to walk away. Maybe this is me trying to realize to myself that I'm just not suited for this type of crap, and should have been a carpenter or a banker or a sculptor or a journalist but not a goddamn academic. Or should have gone into a social science, rather than a history-related field. It's funny, despite people telling me how smart I was when i was younger, I never valued my intellect that much prior to going to grad school, and after failing to get anyone to say "your thesis will stand a defense" for a year now, I don't think I have any intellect... This is like a bad marriage, I can't just leave, but since I'm committed I have to meet bunch of difficult, time-consuming legal requirements and fill out forms to get out.

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you can indeed just quit at the end of this semester, without getting the MA. it isn't too late. finish the semester, and then say "i'm leaving, even without the degree," and just don't show up anymore. that should be fine, since they can move your funding to someone else and you're not leaving them mid-semester with no one to TA/RA/however else they pay you.

and perhaps telling them that you're quitting their program will prompt them to let you sit your defense, finally, because they're not concerned with molding you as an academic for a PhD program.

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Sheesh! Sorry about what you're going through, cranky.

I'm wondering how this might work: insist on scheduling a defense sometime in the near future, maybe 6-8 weeks from now. During the remaining time, do as much as you can to incorporate whatever feedback that you've received from faculty (realizing, of course, that you'll never please anyone 100%, especially not a group of academics). Having the actual deadline of a defense date approaching will (hopefully) signal your faculty that you're really serious about getting done and moving on, and will motivate you to just finish the damn thing, bearing in mind that "a good thesis is a done thesis".

My guess is that, when the defense takes place, the faculty will pass you, and you'll be free. If not, at that point you can consider whether it's worth it to try to revise and re-defend, or whether you are ready to cut your losses and quit.

Best of luck.

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