I will be defending my dissertation. Pfendler Hall, Dean’s Auditorium, 245 PM, 4/4/11. I have 20-25 minutes to talk about a project two years in execution, 31 years in the making. I will have to muster all my strength and courage, and still have enough brains and mettle to last the following hour as the REAL defense begins.
The defense goes like this. I come in with a case of bottled water, a plate of cookies, chips, and salsa. Everyone eats food. I sit in the auditorium and try not to eat my hair.
At 245, the fun begins. I present my work. I have 25 minutes to not falter, to smile, and to be awesome. As soon as the show of awesomeness ends, I have to continue said show by fielding questions. The question-and-answer portion will go for 10-15 minutes, while I try to keep myself together. I may or may not take a shot of tequila while questions are being thrown at me. Did I just type that?
When the q&a is over, my dissertation committee will throw me out of the room. While they deliberate on how to torture me, I will eat as much chips and salsa as is humanly possible, if only to keep my teeth from chattering and thereby cracking.
After a few minutes, the committee will call me back in, put me in chains, and force me to either wrestle with a jaguar or fight a gladiator with my bare hands.
Wait. Wrong movie.
After a few minutes, the committee will call me back in, and the REAL defense begins. I will defend my research as each committee member cross examines me, asks me about my methods, asks me about my results, and asks me about what I did, why I did it, and how I did it.
Gladiators have it easy.
After about an hour (or 2) of interrogation, I will again be tossed out/thrown out/drop kicked outside while the committee deliberates. At that point, I will be doing one or more of the following: eating whatever is left of the chips and salsa, sobbing my eyes out, or drinking more tequila. Again – did I just type that out?
The committee will call me back in, whether I am nervously chewing on chips, have puffy eyes, or am sprawled out, half-drunk on the floor. Once I am called in, I shall either run out screaming, or uh…run out screaming. Either I get the PhD – or I do everything over until I deserve to be told the magic words:
“You are now Dr. Ponce de Leon. Now go revise your document!”
And that, dear world, shall be the story of my life tomorrow. I have all 452 pages of my dissertation all printed out and read, 1000 pages of interviews, 60 pages of field notes…and now, 14 hours to go before I ride on the winds of fate.
Now, it’s time to pray and rest.