Wednesday, September 05, 2007

"I Just Knew"

I see this in movies all the time:

Scene: A 110 pound daughter and her equally thin mother, probably played by Diane Keaton, are rummaging in the attic when they come across the mother's wedding dress.

[Daughter]: "Mom, how did you know dad was the one?"
[D.K.]: "I just knew"

Or it's like in Sleepless in Seattle,

[Mrs. Reed]: "It was like magic."

In movie life, and sometimes in real life, there is this "just know" part of people's brains. They know how to jump to the next step in life: husbands, wives, new jobs, kids, cross-country moves, trips to Hawaii.

It's similar to the "always know" group or the "since I was little" group.

I always knew that I wanted to jump out of a plane while eating peanut butter so I could break the world record in tryptophan consumption at 5000 feet.

Ever since I was a little girl, I knew that I wanted to get married the same hilltop as my grammy Ada.

* * *

I have no "just know" ability. I have no idea how to move into the next phase of life. I slept on my college futon until this year. I was with a guy for five years, but never got married. I think the only time I ever "just knew" was when I picked up my dog 8 years ago from the Humane Society.

This is realy bugging me right now because I'm trying to figure out when to graduate. May? Next December? Next May? Many of my friends, also sixth year graduate students, are getting their C.V.'s and teaching statements ready to apply to academic jobs in the next few months. They seem quite confident that they will be done by May. But since I have no "just know" gene, or brain cells, or whatever, I ask this of the blogosphere: How do you know when you are done?


David said...

when the house lights come on, and it's clear the band is not returning to the stage for a second encore.

Jane said...

A good rule of thumb is to figure out when you think you'll be done, then add at least 3-4 months to that. :)

In my case, my advisor pushed me to finish by a certain date, and I actually did finish by that date (although with less publications than I would have liked).

Rebecca said...

Yeah, it's hard to know when you're done. In my area (scientific computing) it was typically about a year after the prelim. So, schedule your prelim and then add a year. :)

Matthew said...

You are done whenever you can't take it any more.

Graduate Student said...

You are done when you are not afraid of working entirely on your own anymore.

One exercise is to think of an answer to the question: suppose your advisor/current collaborators are not around any more, but you have as much resources as you want to do your work. What would you do? If you can come up with problems that will keep you busy for a year or more, and you are looking forward to persuing them on your own, it's time to graduate!

DC said...

I always thought it was "as soon as you can possibly get your entire committee to sign all your forms". If the earliest date you mentioned is possible, you should do that one.

kb said...

I'm with Matthew and DC. In case we're voting.

And I'm pretty sure graduate student's advice works out to the same thing. ;)

Jenny F. Scientist said...

I'm with DC, personally.

But maybe: when you've gotten what you wanted to get out of the school. Do you have as many pubs as you want? Are there jobs open that you want? Do you have good recommendations? Then you're OUT!!!

Gina said...

The problem is, if you wait until it "feels" right, you might never finish. As the others here have said, figure out what you need to accomplish in order to be ready for the job market. After that, it's a matter of putting a reasonable amount of time in every day on your work, setting out intermediate goals for yourself (e.g., "finish last section of chap.4"), having an idea of your overall deadline, and continuing to plug away.

Jeff Erickson said...

When you're sick of it, you're getting close to done.

When you can't imagine ever wanting to see another pony for as long as you live, you're really almost done.

When you get your committee to sign your paperwork, you're done.

Endlossemester said...

I'm totally with Jeff.

My time was (and I just knew it) was combined with the feeling "If I'm not done soon, I'm going to hit someone".

I still can't imagine what i would have done, if I didn't pass with my first try ;-)