So You Wanna Do A Thesis? Part 2: Moving Forward

Welcome to my new series about my decision to do the thesis option for my program, and my advice to those of you considering the same. Are you considering doing a thesis? Does your program require you to? Then join me on this journey! Follow along on Twitter (@JessicaLColbert) with #MSLISthesis.

I’ll admit to being a little lost for words right now. Lost for words, lost for perspective. How can I possibly focus on my own work (like a thesis, or even this blog) when I feel like I need to be out there helping others by spreading resources and as much information as I can?

In the second installment of my thesis series, I want to discuss moving forward from setbacks and keeping motivation and perspective. I know even without the threat of fascism looming over us all, sometimes things happen in our personal and academic lives that can make our work feel like something trivial and unnecessary. I hope my reflections and suggestions are helpful, whatever that might mean for you.

When the Going Gets Tough…

As soon as Tuesday night turned into Wednesday, I began bombarding my Facebook and Twitter feeds with information on how to maintain privacy, personal security, and resistance tactics. Because doing all I can to help others is how I cope with all the suffering in the world, and all the suffering to come. That sort of mindset can be overwhelming, even if it is productive in a manic way.

I sort of let my schoolwork fall to the wayside, if it didn’t have a direct relation to activism. For instance, I got my first participants to be interviewed for my thesis, but my thesis directly relates to my activism, so it didn’t feel frivolous. MySQL homework felt frivolous. Why work on database construction when I can work on a workshop for an LGBTQ conference teaching online privacy?

But I had to keep reminding myself that I am in school for a reason. I am taking these classes for a reason. I am doing this work for a reason. In the end, everything that I’m doing toward earning my MSLIS and becoming a librarian is to help others. And no matter what happens in my life, like a car wreck or fascism, I cannot let something that matters so much to me become a lower priority.

…The Tough Get Going

So how do we move forward when it feels pointless or trivial? I think the first step is to remind ourselves of our motivation. Why are you doing your thesis? Is it a requirement for your degree? Or is it something you’re intensely passionate about? I know I spoke on this when I discussed whether or not you should even do a thesis, but maybe reminding yourself of that original “why” is helpful. Sometimes we can get so lost in the right now and the possibilities of the future stretching out before us, so find those seeds in your past and trace the roots they’ve sprouted. Let the roots be anchors and guides as you move forward.

I don’t know what to call this next step, maybe mental habit-forming? Maybe mental hygiene? Whatever you want to call it, this next step is to have those motivations and perspectives ready at all times, so that you have them to combat intrusive thoughts of “what you’re doing doesn’t matter” or “you could be doing something much more important.” The more we remind ourselves of perspective and motivation, the more that gets etched into our minds and helps to scrub away those bad and unproductive thought patterns. Train your mind in some controlled setting to be how you want it to be at all times.

Finally, show yourself some compassion. I’m not talking about self-care, per se. What I’m talking about is not beating yourself up when circumstances become overwhelming and you start to question yourself. When things get hard, I think it’s natural to feel like we’re not doing enough. Be kind to yourself when that happens. Be kind if you make a mistake or miss a deadline. Try not to do those things of course, but try to realize why they happen with compassion in mind, and move forward.

I don’t really have any concrete resources for you this installment. A lot of what’s been helping me is religious in nature, and I don’t think that’s the type of thing to talk about here (though feel free to hit me up on Twitter). I will say that beyond that, the support of my adviser and other professors and mentors has been vital. My resource for you this installment is to really build your support network, if you haven’t already. I’m even willing to be that for you, if you need me to be.

Stay strong, and be safe out there.

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