Well, Dear Readers, here I am. In the middle of what Dan Sheidy (or maybe it was someone else, I can't remember) calls the Third Winter of Hell. Allow me to explain.
Two winters ago, I was at BYU. A senior. Applying for Grad school. This is a very stressful process. There's lots of essay writing, and then, if they like you, there's lots of missing classes, quizes, and sleep so you can fly out and interview at various grad schools. Then comes decision time, which is no fun for anybody. Whether you got into lots of schools or very few, it is still very stressful.
But then the winter ends, you get to grad school, and the stress level goes down a bit.
Last winter, I was in my final rotation. I had rotated for a few months in three different labs, and decision day was looming. It seems trivial, but picking a lab is actually a much bigger decision than picking a grad school. Going to grad school is like going to a party- there are lots of labs you can meet and chat up, and chances are that no matter what party you go to, there'll be somebody there you can have fun with. Picking a lab is like getting married. Except you see the people in your lab way more often than you see your wife. So, picking a lab last year was extremely stressful. There were lots of factors going into it, and lots of potential for hurting people's feelings.
But then the winter ends, you pick a lab, and just have fun with some people you like.
This winter, I am preparing for my prelim exam. This is the last real checkpoint before my dissertation, and it's the place where the faculty can say "gee, it was nice having you here, but we think it's not working out. Here's a Masters degree, please get out." So, as you can imagine, it's a stressful few months. I just finished my first draft of the written portion of my exam (which is why I am rewarding myself with a few minutes on the blog), and will spend the next two weeks refining that draft and filling holes. After that, I have a month to prepare for the oral exam, where things will get rough.
But, I'm confident that this winter, like all others, will end. If I pass, I get to spend the next few years in a state of relative autonomy working on my dissertation. If I don't, well, I always did like working the drive thru. I wonder if they'd take me back at McDonnalds...