Next month will mark four years since I submitted my first comp question. I had no idea it was four years ago until I just recently reopened the document for some background and language on a book chapter I’m proposing. Working on my comps were definitely some of the dark days in my doctoral journey. I had ten days to put together coherent thoughts on the history of the social contract in higher education and how civic engagement is in service to that contact. Then I had a few days off and then ten more days to discuss quantitative vs. qualitative methods and once and for all articulate the difference between epistemology, theoretical perspective, methodology, and methods.
Writing is difficult for me. I get caught up in the words, and not in some sort of romantic way like in the movies. I get caught up because I’m a perfectionist and I want to have everything ready to say before it gets down on paper. I like to think that in some way, this connects me with Aaron Sorkin.
In reviewing my comp response, I’m struck by many things. The first is that it’s awkward to read your own work. I’ve never enjoyed it- I always find mistakes and things I would have done differently. It also often comes with the realization of how little I knew at the time. Most surprisingly though, is that several of the people I reference in my comps are people I now call my friends. Four years ago these people were just names in a book and the organizations were just addresses on a street in DC or Boston I’d never been to.
I don’t know whether I’ll have time to actually finish this chapter and submit it for consideration. It is something I am prioritizing so I am hopeful, but more importantly, I’m grateful. I’m grateful that I somehow finished my degree despite letting go of my committee and moving 400 miles away. I’m grateful that I have mentors and colleagues who share their time and knowledge (that will always be vastly greater than my own), and that my field supports, and indeed depends on collaboration.