Idioms for Idiots: Grad Student Edition, Vol. 1

To get the ball rolling is to get something started so it can begin to make progress.

I am not always a ball roller. . . sometimes I am ball nudger, moving things at whatever pace I choose and just enough so that the ball is in a slightly different spot than before so other people tend to stub their toes on it and go, “Huh.  Where did that come from?”  I also have a tendency to not nudge the ball until it must be nudged, and more regrettably sometimes a day or two after it was supposed to be nudged.  I would like to think time and deadlines are fluid, and open to interpretation.  But they really are not.

But, in the last semester of my graduate program, there was still a looming ball that had not even budged since I started the program.  The dreaded Masters Project ball, roughly the size of a VW van, I thought the Masters Project ball (from now on we will call this the MP ball) assigned to me must be defective, flat-bottomed.  Because it certainly wasn’t rolling.  And for some reason, when I blew on it like it was a spoonful of hot soup, it just sat there all unmoving-like.

A few weeks ago, I panicked a bit about the MP ball.  For a few months I had been tripping on it and just walking around it, but with the final semester ahead of me, all of a sudden no matter where I turned I was running face-first into the behemoth that seems to separate the haves from the have-nots (as in I have a Masters degree, or I have not done anything worth my time and money in the last two years).  So, I launched a Hail Mary email to a professor, hoping she would be able to light path for potential projects, or at least throw a tantalizing enough flashlight down the dark cave of possibilities that I would chase it.  Turns out, she had the perfect project for me.  This is when the MP ball got a swift kick, shaking a little of the moss off of it, and making a few clumsy revolutions.

Fast forward to this week.  I met the staff that is currently working on the project.  Excellent people.  Exciting to be moving forward a little bit, but there is this wedge stuck at the base of the teetering MP ball– putting together my committee.  It is sort of a no-no to start much by way of your project without getting all the paperwork done.  Which means having 800 signatures, timelines, approvals, exemptions, and a detailed map of your toeprints.*

Talk to academic advisor: check.
Secure non-program faculty: check.
Get a project advisor: as of 2 hours ago, check!

To say, at this point, that the ball is rolling is an understatement.  I should be up for exempt IRB review, which is a good thing, and my staff is super excited to have me on board and get started.  Not to mention that in addition to being asked to publish by August, my project advisor thinks defense in June is not only doable, but should be accomplished (as in, “Katie, I really see no reason why you shouldn’t be defending this in June.  are you getting married?  Going to Aruba for a month? No? Then June is now your expected date of defense.”)

The MP ball is hurtling uncontrollably towards degree completion, adulthood, and (at least temporary**) release from the academic world.  This is extremely exciting, although I have already picked estimated dates of mid-semester meltdowns and anticipate some late nights, high volumes of coffee and tea consumption, and a pleasant mix of Oh Shit! and Aha! moments.

Get ready, you are about to hear all about Emergency Preparedness modules, regression analysis, and logic maps.  I hope you can handle it.  Come to think of it, I hope I can handle it.

*Well, no. . . not really.  But kind of.  I think I may have promised my first born to someone along the lines. 


**If you ask me whether or not I have considered returning to school at some point for a PhD and/or Masters in Emergency Preparedness/Crisis Communication/etc, I will probably not tell you the truth because the truth makes me think I am an absolute glutton for punishment and clearly have no desire for things such as an income, my own living habitat, and social life.

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