You thought it was ‘life or death’ when you sent in your first grant application in the fall. It wasn’t, life went on (1st Milestone). You thought you were literally going to die the last week of your first semester. You didn’t, and had a wonderful winter break to forget about it. Like a mother after childbirth, you fell back in love with something that had caused you a lot of pain (2nd Milestone). January comes around and you sit down at your desk to plan your semester. Skipping through the pages of your agenda you see it. January 29th, 2016: Thesis Proposal Defense. Damn.
Chapter One: Waiting
It’s the day I’ve been dreading for all month, and I am second to present. My visual presentation is stellar and my script is on point – seamlessly flowing from one slide to the next. The only trouble is, I’m scared out of my mind. The room is packed with faculty, undergrad students and my peers. I keep thinking to myself “I’m prepared, there’s no reason why they would fail me”. And then the bad nervous thoughts start to seep in: “My supervisor seems to think that I’m ready, but what if she’s wrong, what if I’ve just been fooling her with all my exciting animated slides”. I jolt back to reality when I hear “Next up, Natasha Leclerc…”. I walk up to the podium, set my script in front of me, and whisper to myself “get a grip”. I look up, gulp, and then my lips started moving.
Chapter Two: The Presentation
I’m fully aware that my body is tense and my knees keep trying to buckle underneath me. I also become fully aware of the sound of my voice. Do I really sound like that? My voice is oddly confident and I wonder if it is making up for how tense my body looks. First slide switch, clicker malfunction. Apparently I forgot how to use the clicker that I used effortlessly in my practice presentations. People giggle, but I quickly recover. My mouth is getting drier and drier. My mouth never gets this dry and I talk all the time. Damn. I take a sip of water and keep going. Soon I realize that I’m on my conclusion slide. People clap loudly and I feel relief. For a second…
Chapter Three: Questions
Oh no, please nobody raise your hand to ask me any questions. 1, 2, 3, hands go up. Damn. Questions are tough to answer especially when you feel like you just ran a marathon. I answer them all to the best of my ability with a couple comments like “I don’t know, but I hope to address that in my research”. When there were no more questions I walked back to my seat and started to run through the entire presentation in my head, scrutinizing every stumble, every sip of water, every answer to every question, only stopping when I heard my cohort telling me that I did a good job. I’m so blessed to have them in my life.
Chapter Four: Deliberation
We are all asked to clear the room and to stay close by for the results. We wait outside and our friends are all huddled around us congratulating us. No more than 5 minutes pass before the faculty come out and give us the thumbs up. So anticlimactic, but what was I expecting? Tyra Banks asking us all to step forward and tell us we’ve made it to the next round? Or maybe Oprah to tell us “You get a pass! You get a pass! You get a pass!”? Anyways, we all went to the Luxus Boutique Hotel Bar downtown for cocktails to celebrate and that made up for it.
After a weekend of recovery I can finally say that it’s over. I came, I stumbled, and I conquered. We all did. In hindsight it really wasn’t that bad. While it was totally a big deal and we had good reason to take it seriously, we probably didn’t need to stress out about it so much. That being said, I probably will stress out at my first conference presentation but hopefully less and with more confidence in my abilities.