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.

The adventure begins… with chaos

Hopefully the start of my trip does not set the tone for the rest or it’s going to be a crazy, chaotic adventure.

The chaos began at LAX. Despite oversleeping, I got to LAX with sufficient time (thanks to short lines at security and having CLEAR – I haven’t seen LAX that uncrowded in a while. The forecasted rain didn’t hit until I was safely inside the auditory, which was a plus. But that’s where the adventure started. When the rain hit, it hit hard and was accompanied by thunder and lightning. Our flight was delayed – the crew announced that when there is lightning, the ground crew had to take cover for safety, so they couldn’t load baggage. Plus, a plane that took off right around our scheduled departuretime was struck by lightning on takeoff and had to return.

The flight was relatively uneventful, despite some turbulence. But then…

Our already-delayed flight was supposed to land at Narita airport but a plane skidded off the runway earlier in the day. Narita only has two runways, so the closure of one created chaos. As we were approaching Tokyo, the flight crew announced that there was an incident and we were going to divert to Haneda due to the long line of planes waiting to land. The lady sitting next to me, and many others on the flight, had connecting flights at Narita – I’m glad I didn’t have that added chaos!

Once we landed, the co-pilot aligned that the captain made the decision to divert because we would have been in the air another hour and we didn’t have sufficient fuel. So we sat on the plane for close to another hour as we awaited further instructions. They were apparently debating whether to reposition the plane back to Narita or let us off at Haneda. The decision was eventually made to deplane at Haneda, so they brought out air stairs and sent shuttles our way. On the positive, immigration and customs had one of the shortest lines I have ever seen at an international airport. I expected huge lines due to all the diverted flights.

While Haneda is normally consider more convenient than Narita, that isn’t necessarily the case when you are traveling at rush hour. There is a convenient express train that goes from Narita to Tokyo station. I planned to take a taxi from there to my ryokan (a Japanese inn). Instead, I took the monorail, which was crowded with rush hour passengers (but, fortunately, had luggage racks) and had to transfer to the crowded Yamanote line (a popular commuter route).

But I made it. And I went to sleep early. Now to meet my old home stay families for lunch…

Fade in…

Scene – it’s 5:40am, our protagonist is sound asleep.

Suddenly, razor sharp claws penetrate the protagonist’s foot. She bolts awake, sitting upright with a loud yelp. A stream of profanity follows, punctuated occasionally by the name “Elsa.”

The camera pans to the foot of the bed where a brown  demon with glowing eyes sits with a menacing grin.

The protagonist blinks and looks again to see an innocent-looking brown cat looking at the protagonist quizzically, wondering why the protagonist just shouted her name and flung profanity at her.

The protagonist lies back down, glaring at the cat.

Protagonist: “leave my damn feet alone, Elsa. I’m trying to sleep.”

As the protagonist drifts back to sleep, the cat coalesces back into the glowing-eyed demon and lets out an evil little chuckle.

Fade out…