Post-Dissertation Fear, in spite of the fact that I’ve just made it up, is a very worrying and very real phenomenon. Symptoms include the feeling of the world on your shoulders, sleeplessness, cold sweats, and making goat-like ‘baaaa’ sounds after a particularly bad dream about missing a deadline—even though you’ve already turned in your last college essay two weeks ago.
When coupled with the lingering sinking feeling in your gut that you haven’t in-text referenced correctly or that there’s a glaring typo on page 27, Post-Dissertation Fear is pretty similar to the actual stress you experienced when you were physically writing your final paper.
Surely, handing in that last piece of writing, the one you poured over at two in the morning, cried over to your supervisor and said good riddance to with a bottle of tequila, should be the best feeling ever. It should feel like victory. It should be freeing. Instead, I feel anxious and that’s regardless of the fact that it’s yet to be marked and I think I really did have a glaring typo on page 27.
So, what’s the deal? I’m not sure. I’m not a scientist; I’m just an English student. Part of me suspects that the constant fear has less to do with the paper itself being finished and more to do with the fact that for many students, handing in the final massive assignment signifies college being finished. Forever.
For some reason, in my mind, that last whopper of an essay walks hand-in-hand with the end of student loan, house-sharing with your friends, 8-hour weeks and the occasional 20 per cent discount at Topshop. No more weekday nights out or 2AM rides on the mechanical bull in the tackiest bar in town (No? Is that just me?)
It marks the last time you’ll be living in your student city, or in my case, my hometown. It marks the last time you can get away with crashing in your parent’s house without feeling like a statistic, and it marks the beginning of the suddenly urgent graduate job hunt.
Finally, it begs the question: So what are you going to do with your life?
Maybe I’ll get a great job and life sans lectures will be fun. Maybe it won’t be. Maybe I’ll never see an 8-hour week again. Okay, I’ll probably never see an 8-hour week again. That, I can cope with, but what I can’t cope with is the pressure and the uncertainty and the constant sensation that I’m floating, that I’m stuck in the air, that I’m never going to come down.
Post-Dissertation Fear: is it actual dissertation related panic or just the fear of life beyond the graduation cap? I guess I’ll find out soon enough.
Elizabeth Atkin is a London-based writer, film lover & travel junkie. You can read more of her stuff @ elizabethatkin.net. Follow her on Twitter, even though her Twitter handle is lying to you: @iamnotblonde.