I’m in the middle of comp exams right now.
Like right smack in the middle, to use a cliché.
And, so yeah, I’m in the middle. In medias res. Halfway.
Sometimes when I run into colleagues they will ask me, “how are comps going?” and since I can only gauge my own performance at this point since no one in my program is told if they pass or not until after orals, I just say, fine, or that it is moving along, but mostly I’ll stick to the facts and just say that I completed my two timed essays and I am halfway done. I just need to write the longer two-week essay and complete the orals. After the orals, I’ll know how comps went, but until then I do not know. I feel like when I respond to this that I am starting to sound robotic.
The thing is that I do not know anything about how it is really going, though I feel I have done OK up to this point. At this moment, I am simply doing what I am supposed to be doing: writing, thinking, reading, and putting that on repeat, though this week I did get kind of a break as I wait for the third part of comps to start on Monday when I get asked a question for an essay I write in two weeks time.
As for what I have done so far, I will admit that I was less nervous for the first timed essay than I was for the second timed essay. This part to me is interesting because I thought it would be the opposite. But before the second essay, I was almost pacing around my department looking for a colleague who always says sweet and nice things to people because I just needed to hear something encouraging. I am not normally the kind of person who needs that sort of thing, and quite honestly I am more than happy to be equivalent to background noise or not mentioned at all, but on that day I totally needed to hear someone say I would do awesome. And luckily, a colleague on Twitter did come to the rescue and it totally helped me get it together for the second essay.
So will I be nervous for Monday’s question for the two week essay? For sure, but I know I will have two weeks and not four hours, or really two hours if you think of it that way, since you basically answer two questions in four hours. But I am also oddly excited/curious about what question the committee will ask and what it will get me thinking about. Did I mention I am damn glad I don’t have to write this in four hours? So glad.
Finally, while comps is stressful and has caused others I know to seek therapy and understandably so (so far I am doing OK), I like the moments where suddenly you know where you are going and you just go and start writing and keep writing and you feel like maybe you are smart and have something interesting to contribute after all the sources you have read in preparation for this. It is like grabbing for the first cup of coffee in the morning on the first day at a new job you are excited and nervous about (though comps should not be compared to this, but I needed a conclusion & I am tired & not very witty right now). You aren’t sure exactly what to expect, but you know you have been waiting for this and you are interested in the journey.
That is probably it. You are ready for the journey.