Thesis Ten Years Later

It's been a little over ten years since I finished my thesis.  Tonight, in a bid to get rid of one of the boxes sitting in the living room I went through all the old papers.  It was interesting as a mental process.  Ten years ago I obsessed about how to communicate the ideas as efficiently as possible, how to cram all 200-odd "schools" into a single "experience" and as a result created an impenetrable mass that asked the reader to read between every line.

I threw out all of the "how to tell it" notes.  I also threw out all of the outlining and organizing notes.  I kept the notes about individual schools.  But that's about it.  The core ideas all still hold up well.  The organizing principle still meshes well with all the science, psychology, philosophy and the rest that I've picked up in the intervening years.  The thesis was just a tool that helped me understand.  It was a process that let me explore and integrate, and the by-product of the exploration turns out not to have been particularly important.

At the time I obsessed over all sorts of details that, looking back on them, were trivial.  I spent months agonizing over the particular layout of the rooms, the design of the pack of cards, the format of the academic poster.  None of that made any particular difference.

I have to confess, if I hadn't been in the middle of cleaning I probably would have sat down and started writing.  There still seems to be something important there that needs to be explored.  The earnest energy of those days seen with the perspective of an extra decade of living makes me want to find a way to make these ideas useful and accessible.

I should have been in bed hours ago, but I doubt I can get my brain to quiet enough to actually sleep.  Coding in the morning, though, so I need to try.


  1. Sameer Verma

    Sameer Verma on 12/24/2008 6:46 p.m. #

    Wow! I still have two large boxes from my Ph.D. dissertation. The only courage I have been able to muster is to move the boxes around the closet. Still not brave enough to actually open it, let alone read the notes. Its been a good nine years and counting :-)

  2. jason Nolan

    jason Nolan on 12/25/2008 10:30 p.m. #

    Interesting to hear you say that. I've had a publisher wanting revisions of my dissertation for years, and I just don't want to consider it. I'd rather just flush the files... but I can't commit to that yet.

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