If My Thesis is a Music Festival…

I guess I’ve just woken up on Day Two. But if I’m going to run with this analogy, and I promise I am, let me backtrack a little and explain how preparing for our end of summer presentations led me to the grand realization that my entire life is, in fact, a music festival (…or something like that).

As I set out to write this latest post recapping my work this summer, I immediately thought that the presentations felt like the finale of a concert. But when I considered that the huge task of actually writing my thesis still looms ahead of me, the work left to do felt like much more than just an encore. Bearing in mind that my entire summer has been spent thinking almost exclusively about music festivals, it took me an embarrassing length of time to see that the presentations were a finale…just not the Final finale. The thesis is more like a two-night engagement…no wait, it’s a festival! Once I equated a few key events from festivals to moments in my summer experience, I would never see the experience on different terms again. Undergoing the “festival experience” sends me through a series of emotions, reactions, and mindsets. Interestingly, undergoing the “thesis experience” has sent me through the stages in much the same way.

I expect finishing my thesis will feel at least a little bit like looking out at a crowd like this one from the One Direction concert...Historians are rock stars too, right??

I expect finishing my thesis will feel at least a little bit like looking out at a crowd like this one from the One Direction concert…Historians are rock stars too, right??

Deciding to write a thesis and apply for the Dietrich Honors Fellowship Program felt much like deciding to attend a festival. Sure I wanted to do it, but sitting there ready to pull the plug on that high ticket price (read: countless hours and notes and revisions) inflicted a sense of worry. Would the end result be worth its cost? Would I be able to get the logistics in place to have a successful experience? Who would I get to sign up for this madness with me? While the jury’s still out on that first question (all evidence points to a huge yes), the rest of my worries were quickly assuaged by support from the program and my advisor Judith, as well as friends and family (like those of you reading my posts!).

Getting started then parallels packing: which tools will I need? Should I read this book or these articles? How much is too much? Where will I keep all of my stuff? How do I decide what’s important? Is there such a thing as too many “essentials”? What happens when it rains (an essential problem to plan for both here in Pittsburgh and out at festivals)? Much of my summer has gone to working on these questions. I’ve narrowed definitions, developed and adapted theoretical frameworks, taken field notes and book notes, made a plan of attack, and tried to think of everything.

Day One at a festival is full of a lot of emotions. Relief as you finally get into place (reminiscent of my first research breakthrough which I was excited enough to tweet about), excitement of entering the grounds (like finally situating my notes into frameworks offered by anthropologists), the rush of those first sets and sights and sounds (I’ll be honest and equate those to the actual festival attendance part of this amazing summer), and the reluctance to see the day end (stemming here from knowledge that everything kicks up a notch during the semester, and that I have so much more to do).

With presenting my work-in-progress at the end of the summer feeling like laying awake in my festival tent rehashing the day, this first month of classes had felt like waking up on Day Two: I find myself a little tired, vaguely anxious, and especially excited.

Here's what Day Two looks like in festival terms from Flood City, my last festival of the summer!

Here’s what Day Two looks like in festival terms from Flood City, my last festival of the summer!

And while this lengthy explanation simplifies and glamorizes what has been a varied summer experience, I know the rest of ‘Geneva’s Thesis’ Music and Arts Festival (a working event name, I’m open to suggestions) will continue to show me a memorable time. Thanks for reading through all the parenthesis and bearing with my thinly-stretched analogy. I’ll be back soon to tell you about how Day Two progresses.

Until next time, thanks for reading!