I always look forward to Memorial Day week-end. As I enjoy the current Memorial Day holiday here in the U.S., I am thinking back to a Memorial Day week-end a few years ago when I had to choose my dissertation over the holiday week-end with my family.
In my Washington, DC suburb, Memorial Day has always been a day for ritual and fun.
The day begins with a 3K Fun Run. In the front of the pack are young military people and other determined-looking runners. Behind them are the kids from the local track teams and other people who love to run. Way back, and this is a big pack of people, are the walkers. One reason everyone in town wants to participate is because, for years now, the local Volvo dealer gives away terrific t-shirts to everyone who finishes.
The day proceeds with a fair and a parade and back-yard brunches and that sort of thing.
And it’s fun to spend the day with my family and to catch up with friends and long-time acquaintances..
Except for the one year when I had to spend the whole week-end once again revising the intro to my diss.
I thought I was finished with the intro. My advisor had given me a fairly straightforward suggestion for revising the diss. I had done what he said and sent the revision off to him. Just before Memorial Day, he returned the revision to me with a note saying that I should take out all of the newly added pages and re-work the whole chapter.
To meet the deadline, I would have to work straight through the Memorial Day holiday. I knew better, but I wrote to him, saying that I had done exactly what he had told me to do. His only comment was that he didn’t want to be told what he had said.
Hoping that I hadn’t alienated him, I gave up my holiday week-end with my family and sat in front of my computer for 3 days.
I got through the revision, and finished the dissertation, but that was one of the times that I strongly felt that the dissertation process had demanded too much from me.
I have coached many people who somehow write dissertations while juggling the demands of family life. It’s difficult to juggle the daily demands, but to give up a holiday with one’s family is a particularly hard choice to make.
For those of you who are facing the dilemma this week-end of deciding whether to spend time with your family or meet a writing goal, I send all good wishes. Whatever you decide to do will be the right choice for you.