I woke up after two hours of restless sleep, took a shower, printed out my notes, got dressed, quickly drove to campus. I even thought I might give a really nice presentation. Well, that’s not how it went at all. First, they made me leave the room for a good twenty minutes while the professors discussed amongst themselves. WAS like I had descended to hell!) I had put on a double dose of antiperspirant, worried that the sweat would soak through my silk blouse. It was so hot and I was so nervous that I broke through the barrier in less than 30 seconds. Still, I was afraid to step out of the building for some fresh air in case they called me back in. Each minute went on and on and on. What were they discussing for so long? Was this a bad sign? I had thought this discussing would happen after the defense, not before.
Why don’t they walk you through it a bit in advance? Finally the called me in. One professor was on speaker phone–never good. They asked me to start. I lost my train of thought. I didn’t talk about all the relevant examples and wonderful things I had thought I would talk about. They cut me off because I was going on for too long. I am extremely sensitive to mood shifts around me. But do I imagine these things or are they real? Then they took turns to comment and ask questions, but we only ever got to the first two professors because we ran out of time. They were supposed to schedule three hours but only scheduled two because one of the professors had to be at a meeting. The two professors hadn’t a single good thing to say about my dissertation. It was all criticism. 1. Then I disagreed with his view of X philosopher a bit. 1 than with me.
They spoke as if they were right and I was just getting it wrong. But I could have debated with specific passages and everything to support my view (I did a little, but they were just convinced I was getting it wrong so they didn’t really engage my arguments). 2, I thought, might have liked what I had to say, but he didn’t seem to like it at all. But when I asked him to be more specific in his critique, he couldn’t be. He’d say things like you weren’t specific enough, or what you say is off the mark, but not tell me how. I agreed with him, but he didn’t agree with me. Maybe I just wasn’t using the right words (and different words are right for different people–I had to deal with crossing disciplines as well). He asked if I was familiar with X essay. 2. Then we had to end. They made me leave the room again. I thought there might be a chance they would pass me because I knew the other two professors had a better understanding of my work (they’d read previous drafts) and were on my side.
If I just had one of the other professors vote in my favor I would make it. But I felt like crying, I felt like it went horribly. I ran to the bathroom, held back my tears, went back to the hall and paced. Then my advisor stepped into the hall and asked me back in with a “congratulations!” I passed! Some people tell me it is because I always see the worst side, I always think I did bad and then it turns out I did good. 2 thought, too. Bummer. I thought we might be on the same page. [didn’t want to discriminate against those letters that fall in the middle of the alphabet! I’d gone in the direction my intro suggested I would go. But at that point I already felt awful. Afterwards, I had a talk with the head of my committee (one of the profs who didn’t get to ask much). She said it went fantastically.