The first time I submitted my thesis, it felt like a failure and I was happy to get it out of my sight. For some folks, waiting for revisions is wracked with anxiety. For me, it is bliss, at least for a few days. After the joy brought on by not having to work on my thesis settled, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I felt lost.
When the past year or two of your life has been consumed by a single project and train of thought, it’s jarring to have that taken out of your hands, even temporarily. What do you do while your supervisor is reviewing your life—er, I mean, your thesis?
No one really talks about the revision process that your thesis will go through. With my first draft, I worked closer with one supervisor than the other (I have two). My first submission was to my one supervisor and at that point my thesis was rough, but it was mostly complete. And with her feedback on that first draft, I spent the next two weeks working hard at revising, editing, rearranging, citing, writing, researching, and scrambling to turn my thesis into something worth reading.
The second time I submitted my thesis, I sent it to both supervisors, along with a dozen or so of my friends, family, and peers. It felt good, really good.
Although not necessary, I wanted people outside of my field to read my thesis. It’s the first piece of writing I’ve been proud of in a long time and I want to keep improving it; flow, readability, overly technical language, the need for more examples, expanded discussions, opportunity for comment and connection, and I know that my readers will see things in the data and discussion that I would never imagine.
Thankfully, my supervisor prepared me for this long stretch of waiting. It’s been weeks since I finished my thesis, but I still have a term of waiting, revising, resubmitting, and waiting ahead of me. But that’s okay because while I wait, I’m becoming an entrepreneur.
While I was waiting on my thesis the first time, I spotted an email seeking idea submissions and applied half as a joke to myself. A sociologist applying to be an entrepreneur, like, no way would that ever happen. I got some help from my friends in the business world crafting a letter of application and a proposal, submitted it, and, to my utter surprise, got accepted.
While I was waiting on my thesis the second time, I started learning how to start my own business, including creating something (profitable in a capitalist economic system) out of nothing. The program is offered through the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship and involves weekly meetings with the project cohort and your mentor one-on-one, along with access to centre resources, and accountable enrollment in StartUp School (a program designed to cultivate successful, growth-oriented ideas into businesses).
Suffice to say, the entrepreneur process has been bizarre. I’m learning a lot of useful and cool stuff, and I’m enjoying the process, but it’s so strange, so very different from the social sciences. But to my surprise and delight, I’m discovering parallels. Business and sociology discuss similar phenomena, processes, and concepts; it is the terminology used by the disciplines which makes them seem very different. In this entrepreneurship program, I feel like I’m learning a whole new language of terminology and phrases.
Being socialized into the business community certainly is interesting, particularly as a visibly queer person. Discussing customer demographics, I’m struggling to find myself represented in the existing consumer data and marketing strategies. It’s a bit disheartening to witness the rainbow capitalism firsthand, but it gives me purpose. As a queer social scientist, it’s as though I have infiltrated the commerce department as a participant-observer ethnography.
Now, I sit staring at the second draft of my thesis and the pages of revision notes. Half of my head is entrenched in business, while the other half is forever stuck in thesis-mode. This in-between space is stressful since I have work coming from both sides of my academic life, yet it’s comforting to have this confusion in my life again.
For the first time in a long time, I feared falling behind. I articulated this to my business mentor, and he gave me the advice I really needed at this point in my grad school career: Stay the Course. With three months left to my degree, I am starting to see a light form at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps all of this effort will be worth it in the end, I hope.