School is done. So what’s next?

On Monday morning, at 4:30 am, I submitted my nearly 10,000-word dissertation — the culmination of three years of part-time post-grad study (that sometimes felt like an eternity). Somehow I managed through, despite working full-time and teaching over two of the three summers. During that time, distractions were plentiful – on the positive, I worked in plenty of travel (including to visit advisors at the school twice); on the negative, I battled an illness (in my third year no less) and saw several friends and colleagues pass away during those years. I got burned out at times and inspired at others. For three years, I powered through.

But the weight isn’t off my shoulders yet. Now, stress gives way to anxiety as I wait for the grade on this last component. I’m less than 1 point away from graduating with “a Distinction,” which is basically the top level of honors. So I need at least a 72 on my dissertation to hit that average. For the yanks, in the UK grading scheme, a 70 is the lowest A. That took some getting used to. I am currently well within “Merit” range (basically, a lower level of honors with a B-average) and, unless I really tanked my dissertation (I don’t think I did), I should safely get that. But, I’ll be honest, I’ll be devastated if I don’t get that Distinction at this point. I can still fall within the discretionary level if I get a 70 on the dissertation, but… Ugh.

I feel like I may be in that range, but it’s hard to tell, really. Whenever I have felt I should get a grade like that, it ends up being lower. I reread my paper and I think the writing is good enough (I’ll probably clean it up and try to get it published once the grades come in). I think the weakness comes in two places – having a topic that really warranted more than 10,000 words to discuss and lots of footnote fails (forgotten footnotes here, citing the wrong source there, etc). So I guess it all depends how much weight they put on that.

But I digress…

Now that I’m done with school, I’m not sure what to do with the time I’m getting back. I have a ton of photos to edit from my last couple trips, so there’s that. And I have an educational comic I want to work on. (Which reminds me, I need to touch base with my potential artist collaborator.) I also will need to revisit my paper at some point to edit it for potential publication (and I do want to write a shorter article related to one subsection of it). And I just signed myself up to do an educational presentation on it at work (I head up our MCLE program, so I can do that 😆).

But I also did enjoy studying. Maybe another degree program will manifest on the horizon at some point (an MBA? PhD?), but not in the short term. For now, the next educational endeavor will be studying for the CIPP/US privacy certification (and maybe the EU one thereafter?). Studying for a standardized test (which I have always been good at taking) should be a breeze after my degree program. And I’ll be teaching next summer – so that always involves some studying.

And, I’ll be honest, I haven’t done a great job of keeping my apartment clean and orderly these last 3 years (especially this year) since so much of my free time was spent studying. I have to do that, too. For now, tho, I bought my first new video game since I started school. It has been far too long since I have been able to just sit and enjoy playing a video game.