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I had been working on a doctorate for three years, with little time off. When I wasn’t working on it, I was teaching, taking care of my family, or being a scoutmaster. I had already defended my dissertation, and my committee had passed it. I only had two more reviews to have the dissertation finalized. It had been to the next reviewer for two weeks, but sometimes they took months to go through it.
Our second youngest daughter had just gone away to college, and our youngest daughter was going with a tour group back east, so my wife, Donna, had a suggestion. “Since the girls are gone, why don’t we take this week and go on a vacation?”
“The problem is that if my next dissertation reviewer comes back with some fixes, I probably ought to do them right away,” I replied.
“Do they insist that you do them immediately?” she asked.
“No, they never have,” I replied. “They just tell me what they want changed, and then I work on it when I can. But I try to do it as soon as possible to speed up the process.”
“What are the chances they will get back to you this week?” she asked.
I thought about that and considered the other reviews. Almost all of them had been more than three weeks, with some being quite a bit longer.
“We’d probably be safe,” I replied. “Besides, if they do send it back, I’m sure I could do it when we get back. One more week wouldn’t make that much difference.”
After hiring some teenagers to feed our animals and water our garden, we were ready to go. We drove to my son’s house for the first leg of the trip. We watched our granddaughter for a day while our son and his wife spent time together. Then Donna and I headed on to the coast. We found a nice hotel with an ocean view and settled in for the night. I opened my computer, and there was an email from my dissertation committee chairman.
“The next reviewer just finished. She wants the changes made by tomorrow.”
I told Donna about the email.
“Have they ever told you they want it by the next day like that before?” she asked.
“Never,” I replied. “They have just said to get it back as soon as possible.”
We spent the next day in the hotel while I worked on the changes. Finally, in the late afternoon, I finished and returned the dissertation with the corrections.
“Well,” I said with a sigh, “that should take care of it until after our vacation.”
We went to a clam chowder house on the ocean and ate while we watched the sun set. We then went back to our hotel, and I opened my computer. To my dismay, there was a new email from my dissertation chairman.
“Daris, the reviewer okayed the changes, and the next reviewer went through it. She would like you to make the corrections by tomorrow.”
I was floored by this. They had always been at least two weeks on any review before.
I got up early the next morning and worked until we had to check out of the hotel. Donna drove to our next destination while I worked on it further. We stopped to see a few things, and in between, I continued to work. We went to a hotel earlier than we had planned, and I worked some more. Finally, exhausted, I was able to turn it in.
I complained to Donna. “Two days of our vacation had to be spent working in a hotel room. Of all the times they decided the changes had to be in by the next day, why did it have to be now?”
We enjoyed a couple of days, but the stress of it still hung over me. Then, on our last night at the coast, I opened my computer and saw another email from my committee chairman. I almost ignored it, but I finally read, “Dr. Howard, we are pleased to inform you that your dissertation has been fully and completely accepted as finalized.”
I read it to my wife, and she laughed. “I guess two days of work in the hotel were worth it.”
“Yeah,” I said. “But now I feel I need a vacation.”