April 20, 2010

Free At Last!

So as of yesterday morning at 10 a.m. I am a thesis free woman!

I defended at 9 after several days of nervous and stressed out stupor. I won’t go into details, but let me just say that I was in the Wal-Mart (which I boycott and haven’t shopped at for over 4 years and never did regularly) buying an ink cartridge at 9:30 the night before. I was so upset by the fact that I had to buy something from Wal-Mart that it sort of over-shadowed the nervous panic I was in.

Though a little sleep deprived and perhaps a slight bit under practiced (though you can go too far the other way and be OVER practiced, I’ve seen it), I made it through with flying colors. I answered my committee’s questions like a pro and graciously took suggestions from the graduate coordinator whom I am personally not fond of, and survived.

I looked damn good too. I had several non-solicited compliments on my appearance that had nothing to do with my presentation. I was thrilled because over the weekend, I had hit a new low on the scale. A number I have never seen in my adult life and a huge goal. It was such a boost. That and I had a brand new hair cut from my amazing friend Amber, and a new outfit courtesy of a shopping expedition with my mother. If those things don’t prepare you for 90% of life’s problems, I don’t know what will.

I was having a little bit of an over-stimulated melt down by last night and feeling low for a bit. Some drunken celebration with friends brought me mostly out of it and when I woke up this morning, felt like a huge weight had been lift and I was emerging fresh from a dark place. I am free! I am free to think about other things, not feel like I am wasting time by knitting instead of working on my thesis. While knitting has never been side-lined during this process, and in fact can be credited with helping me through it, I will no longer have that slightly guilty pang when I pick it up instead of the thesis. Hurray!

So now what? I don’t mean what will I do with my life, career, and free time, but what will I knit?

April 9, 2010

On the Defensive: Put your Knucks Up!

It’s been a very busy month. Good busy mostly. Several projects all going at once and inspiration out the wazoo. I seem to have more projects that I have yarn and needles for than I can possibly keep up with. I have four things going simultaneously, not counting a few WIPs that I know I will return to. So on the knitting front, things are good. Except for the lack of time I seem to have for knitting these days.

Mostly that’s because work, and my thesis project which is part of work, have taken over my life. The thesis is done, minus a couple edits here and there from one more advisor. But the tweaking and the final steps seem to take longer and longer. So besides regular work, I have this extra weight sitting on me.

That weight has now shifted into the forefront as I have a scheduled defense in a week (and two days). I alternate between excitement that this long, long process will finally be over, and terror at standing in front of a room full of peers and colleagues and superiors and proving what I know. I can usually calm myself down by reminding myself that I know this thing in and out, backwards and forwards and no one else does. I add that I know, like, and respect all of these people who will attend, and mostly I think they feel the same about me. So no one will be harshly judging me and most will be actively rooting for me. These thoughts mostly work when I start to breath rapidly and my blood pressure rises.

See I’m kind of terrified of presenting, but I also secretly love it because as unlikely as it is, I’m good at it. I have all kinds of reasons for why this is, chief among them the fact that I have been overweight most of my life (wait, I’ll explain that so it makes sense, it actually structures most of my life these days). Having been always a fat kid, an overweight teenager, and an obese adult for 25 years, I grew quite accustomed to hiding and hoping no one’s attention ever rested on me for more than a second. I also cultivated the almost requisite sense of self-deprecatory humor that is required by overweight individuals (I am still waffling on whether this is purely in self defense, or because the general public expect fat people to be jolly).

The key point in this explanation is that I then lost all the weight. Funny how this can change almost everything in your life, even really silly, simple things you would never think about. Like public speaking maybe. I didn’t get confidence right away when I dropped the pounds. That takes years and years and a lot of hard work mentally telling yourself you deserve to be proud. For a long time I was still the shy fat girl in a new body I could no longer hide behind. I felt very exposed. Luckily, I had a couple tools at my disposal. I now I wanted to be looked at and accepted and approved by others, it aided in my own approval of who I had become. I also had the handy ability to laugh at myself, a great trick when trying to put others at ease.

Turns out these are also awesome tools for public speaking. I always hate presentations that drone on and on and never make even a passing attempt at lightness or humor. Yes, we all have to be here, yes I know you need me to hit certain key points and phrases to prove what you and I both already know: namely that I know my shit and you can feel ok about signing your name and attesting to whomever cares that I do. But why in god’s name do we have to be bored the entire time? I will never understand those who can’t even crack a small joke or a smile. I think they must feel that ay humor would mean they aren’t serious about their topic, which is a silly misassumption. I am dead serious about my topic and protecting the archaeological resources I have worked very hard to identify from destruction. I dare anyone to question that. It doesn’t mean that I can’t crack a couple jokes at the expense of Lake County or the ridiculousness of having to imageschedule fieldwork around pot seasons to avoid dangerous growers with guns.

Anyway, I’ll get off that tangent now. I think I’ll be ok and I will hopefully make a few people chuckle and smile along the way.

What this post was really about was knitting, and in a round about way we got right where I was going. I am knitting for my defense. Not the actual presentation obviously (though I may knit during the OTHER presentations if I feel it is appropriate). I decided to knit fingerless gloves for my two most important advisors. I know each of them will appreciate the hard work and time it takes me to make them and I know they are extremely useful to archaeologists (mine go into the field with me every time and they are a life saver when it’s cold and you still need to pick up artifacts, write up a record, and other field tasks). In fact my chair apparently used to knit as a boy back in England, which I found very cool. The other member has admired mine and I feel confident is a hand-knit appreciator.

I feel a little lame not knitting them for the third, but I don’t know him as well, he didn’t provide as much input, and I just don’t have time. (see previous  post re:me and deadlines). I think I will get him a bottle of wine (the standard advisor gift) and call it a day.

So I need to finish two pairs of knucks by next Monday. I think I can manage that. If I can push through the boring finger knitting, they go pretty quickly. My only worry is that they will fit. I am using Keith as a hand model (dear knitting gods, please don’t let Keith ever get sick of being my test-knitting subject and all around fit model, thank you). I need to focus on these and not let my brain wander into the exotic world of what to cast on next. I already reprimanded myself for beginning a swatch for a sweater last night. It can wait a week if I’m really serious about it, right?

Oh, and before I sign off. I should share a little heart-warming tidbit about knitting, knucks, and gifts. My family (me, my mother and father, and sister), her boyfriend and Keith all went on a little extended weekend vacation over Easter. We thought it would be nice to invite Keith’s dad along for a couple nights. So the seven of us all shared a house at Sea Ranch. At one point we were talking about knitting and Keith and I pulled out all of my hats, gloves, shawls, and socks that we had brought to wear and put multiple of each on to be silly. I then realized that every single person in that house owned a pair of my hand-knit knucks. Different sizes, colors, and states of wear, but we were all united by their importance to me and these simple little gloves. And when I started thinking about it, it grows. I have only knit them for two other people who aren’t family, my best friend Kassie and Corey. I don’t even think about making them for someone unless I know them well and they mean a lot to me. It’s like a Kate-initiation gift. If you have a pair, you are seriously important to me.