In just over 48 hours from now, I will be in my viva.
How am I using this last bit of preparation time?
I am still feeling very laid back about Tuesday – and I am beginning to find this worrying. I sense a need for the kind of adrenalin rush that will put me on my edge and assist performance, but at the same time being relaxed about the process is a whole lot more comfortable than being on edge. Maybe I got the nervous energy out of my system during the final writing up/submission stage of this journey. Or maybe I am going to go into a blind panic at some point in the next 48 hours when I realise how little I really know. Or maybe the panic will hit in the exam room itself and I will clam up or forget everything or something else embarrassing.
On the other hand there may be no need for nerves. Hang it all, I’ve lived with my research and my writing for the past five years or so. I’ve been part of the domain I’ve been researching for the past fifteen years (knowingly) and longer (unknowingly). During the journey thus far, I’ve argued my case many times – and done extensive additional reading to understand more fully the context of my theoretical framework and the nature of the problem I’ve been investigating. Most of what I know is not just what is written down, but what is embedded in me and in the way I think and understand elements of the world around me.
Does the viva actually matter? Well, it matters insofar as it is when my work is being scrutinised by experts and I learn whether I have done enough and done it appropriately enough to be awarded a doctorate. If I am found wanting, I will be disappointed but it isn’t the end of the world. In an absolute sense, I do not need a doctorate. The result will make no difference to my future life plans. On the other hand, it would be nice to have something to show for the past few years.
I have often said that a doctorate was not part of my life plan. I started this journey by accident at a time when some of my friends and colleagues were talking about doctoral research and when I was involved in a number of projects that meant I was more involved than previously with academia. It was a surprise to find that I embarked on this journey, when others I considered far more able and equipped to do so didn’t. I have quite often referred to my doctoral research as retirement preparation as I have revisited so many ideas and so much literature that I have encountered over the past four decades and there has been a sense of drawing threads together and challenging previous presuppositions. At the same time, I have done new things, made new friendships and enjoyed the challenges the journey has presented. In ten days time, I move from my present home to the longed for bungalow that will be our retirement home. The viva is not the end of my current journey, but a stop on the way. Only time will tell whether the way forward will keep me with a foot in academia or whether I will focus on various creative pastimes that have been on hold in in recent years.
So the plan for this final couple of days of viva preparation is to focus on reviewing my notes, relaxing in the sunshine which has suddenly appeared and looking forward to the future. My hope for the viva is that it will be an interesting, stimulating and challenging conversation with two people that I respect and who I trust sufficiently to allow them to read and critique my work.