According to my handbook and my advisor, an initial gathering of my committee would have a few, relatively painless elements: I would discuss my career goals, talk about my research interests, and end up with a plan of courses I pledge to take over the duration of my program. So in the past weeks, I have set about reading about, talking to, and cajoling various faculty members to be my wise guides to populate my guidance committee. This whole process in and of itself felt like some bizarre speed-dating ritual. In the end, I am thrilled about my choices and really couldn’t be happier. But the whole thing was quite time intensive and anxiety producing: what if they said no? what if they were too busy? what if we aren’t a good match?
With all of my choices expressing willingness to serve, I sent out a doodle poll with about a million choices for times and dates. I sent this two weeks in advance of the earliest dates on the poll and the choices spanned three weeks. (Seriously, how did anyone schedule anything before online calendars? Nightmare). I then prevailed upon a good friend to help me schedule a room.
As the date loomed, I set about triple-checking my CV, re-writing my research interests four or five times, and generally convincing myself that I am an idiot who probably should drop out. There is something about facing four people whose work and brilliance I so admire that basically made me feel like the whole conversation was going to be one long, excruciating game of middle school dodgeball.
After walking in and we got started, I realized a few things: my ambivalence about whether or not grad school is a good idea does not lend itself to confidence in these situations. This is something I need to work on. Also, I am really excited about the research questions I am asking and love when every statement I make about them is ripped to shreds. It galvanizes me so much that I was writing at 6 am this morning.
The best analogy I can use to describe the experience is that it felt like jumping into a freezing cold lake. It was uncomfortable at first (as any new social situation is bound to be), but in the end it was exhilarating. I may look like I am drowning, but it seems to be the only way to learn how to swim.