Think of a time when you didn’t think you were capable of doing something, but then surprised yourself. How will you surprise yourself this week?
How well this prompt goes with the previous one! Yesterday I was annoyed and irritated with the prompt because it seemed like writing it was repeating thoughts about which I had already written.
At age forty-six I didn’t think I had the ability to do all that was involved in getting a Ph.D. in History. First came two years of seminars with their attendant papers that required original research, most of it interacting with primary documents. Then came comprehensive examinations in which I had to demonstrate that I knew, well, basically everything that had occurred in history since Creation (no kidding!). Then, the greatest terror of all: the dissertation.
Basically, the dissertation is the biggest term paper you ever saw, on steroids. Its threat came in that suddenly I was the expert, and I was the only one accountable for the work I was doing. Juggling my family and work responsibilities with late nights researching and writing sandwiched between trips to Europe took its toll.
Added to this was the palpable excitement of the chase: doing detective work in the archives of some of the most wonderful libraries on the planet only increased my fears of finishing. After all, it doesn’t get any better than working in the rare manuscripts room of the British Museum after, and before, scones and tea. Then there was the day a worker in the rare manuscripts room went “postal” and threatened to take hostage a patron whose “crime” had been to take an extra plastic bag and a pencil from the museum! All this excitement would end when I finished the dissertation. I went from not thinking I could finish, to not wanting to finish, especially because of perks like this glorious drama of the Rare Mss Room, where not only were workers going berserk, but it felt heady to read original letters of John Knox in the margins of which Queen Elizabeth I made her snarky retorts!
It was a surprise to everyone, especially myself when I got it done! So now that I have finished, as Pressfield says, I will always finish, even if it means a more mundane existence. The Overland Park Library is fairly boring in comparison.
I have three unfinished projects to tackle this week. I think I will surprise myself and finish them–or go postal myself!