As a student, you are endlessly told that the last mile is the longest. It turns out to be true too. And I personally think that it is much more true still when writing your thesis. Incidentally, I found the one-before last mile to be longest of all: I sank into a last motivation dip before the final effort peak, and I could simply not force myself to work on my thesis. All my zest for life was gone.
As it happened, this dip coincided with the Liberation Festival week, and I decided to celebrate liberation as literally as possible this year. No, my thesis was not finished yet, and I was not yet free, but I was yearning for human contact, and hoped that this contact would give me the boost I needed to complete those final analyses and finish that damn literature review.
When the sun finally broke through, a cloud of evaporating sweat mixed with a heavy smell of smoke immediately formed. We poured wine from a secret bottle
The near-liberation day, that’s what it was. The bass boomed so loudly that my chest vibrated. My earplugs couldn’t take it. It felt like one of those disco nights for deaf people, with physical vibrations instead of sound. We were packed together like sardines and as we danced, the wet lawn turned into a mud field. When the sun finally broke through, a cloud of evaporating sweat mixed with a heavy smell of smoke immediately formed. We poured wine from a secret bottle, and watched it slosh out of the cups as we bumped into the elbows of all the dancing people around us. It was nice to be freed for a while from the four walls of my room and the pressure I was putting on myself. I felt near-liberated. For a moment there, it was great, but then my conscience kicked in: What are you doing? Why are you so drunk? Weren’t you supposed to finish your thesis this weekend? How did you think you were going to do that with a hangover? Etc.
I made my way to the edge of the park to get some air. My plan to lift myself out of the motivation dip had worked. I had managed to distract myself from the downward motivational spiral into which I had wormed myself. And it was only Friday! I still had an entire weekend to use that motivation high and finally make some final adjustments. Wet with hangover sweat, but still, it worked. I pressed Send and delivered my preliminary version, including new analyses and that damned literature review.
My plan to lift myself out of the motivation dip had worked
I cycled a big Tour de Wageningen to reconnect with the outside world and booked a hair appointment to feel human again. The real final mile will come later, once the final comments on my work finally arrive and I have to process them. But with this burden off my shoulders, it will feel lightest.
By the time you read this, I promise I will have finished my thesis. Then no one will ever have to hear about it again, at least not until I start my Master’s thesis. And that won’t be for over a year, so make sure you enjoy the breathing space. After that, I will whine harder than ever.
Ilja Bouwknegt is 24, a Bachelor’s student in Forest and Nature Management, and he is active at study association WSBV Sylvatica, and sometimes conducts research on bats at night.