The Dissertation Registry

Greetings, Internet! I just got all four wisdom teeth out (partly because it seemed like less of a hassle in the long run, and partly because I am a glutton for punishment), and so I thought, “Now’s a good time to update the blog.”

This post is inspired by the Sex and the City episode, “A Woman’s Right to Shoes” (Season 6, Episode 9). I have never seen it, but the gist is that Carrie Bradshaw goes to a baby shower, and becomes fed up with the idea that she’s been paying for items on people’s wedding and baby registries, while receiving nothing in return because she herself was single and childless (also her shoes get stolen at some point?). And so she makes her own registry for the shoes that were stolen. Because why the eff not? A friend of mine was saying that she intended to do something similar for her 40th birthday, which I am absolutely on board with. That gave me an idea for a dissertation-inspired registry.

A disclaimer before I start: This post is not meant to hate on wedding or baby registries.

In theory, the wedding registry is full of items that you’ll need to start a life together with a partner. Maybe the two of you are planning to buy a house one day, and you desperately need a new tea kettle, countertop convection oven, or KitchenAid mixer. I would argue that a similar list would be amazing for the PhD student who literally spent the previous 5-7 years using the same hand mixer/wooden spoon for stress baking, and the same kettle she’s been using since her freshman year of college (not projecting on that one at all).

Let’s not forget that the PhD is a massive undertaking. It is psychologically grueling. Inside Higher Ed reported on a study a couple of years ago detailing a mental health crisis among graduate students. Speaking from personal experience, the first year of a PhD program can bring out every insecurity you’ve ever had and magnify it tenfold. I didn’t know what a panic attack felt like until my first semester (that’s right, folks, it took a semester in the suburbs to break me). And then there’s the job uncertainty/insecurity, the stipend that (in most programs) runs out within a year or two, and the less-than-ideal living conditions. At the end of all that, you bet the person getting a PhD wants a registry of items with which to start a new life chapter.

PhDs and marriages already have quite a bit in common, so it would make sense that each should have a registry. As one professor once told me, “It’s easier to change your partner than to change your advisor.” You’re locked into that commitment for the duration of your degree, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. Wouldn’t it be nice to end that commitment with a new toaster oven?

I’m not saying that the dissertation registry is a necessity for all PhD students. Perhaps some don’t need any new household items because they’re already married and did the wedding registry thing. That’s fine. I’m making a case for PhD students who put their dating lives on hold to devote all their time to a job that has no set work hours, and a dissertation that demands quite a bit of attention. Or this could be for PhD students who have no intention of partnering up, but who are in need of items to put in their new “I no longer live in university housing” apartment.

To be fair, whoever decides to do a dissertation registry has to throw a party in the style of a wedding or a baby shower. I’d opt for a baby shower format, because the dissertation is basically your baby. And the dissertation has a way longer gestation period than a baby, so the celebration should be epic.

Can I help it if I want professional accomplishments to be celebrated as if they were personal milestones? Not everyone wants marriage and kids, but would instead love a thriving career in academia. They should get to have the party and registry that announces, “Hey, world! I did the thing!”

Thanks so much for reading!

2 thoughts on “The Dissertation Registry

  1. Hi Val, I love this post and have not even given doctoral registry a thought. I am current a doctoral student with a focused completion of late 2022 or early 2023. I can certainly agree that this process is psychologically gruesome, and its seemingly aligns with being married. Our success deserved to be celebrated, as not like a child, we don’t have to fight with it or change diapers, or look forward to becoming empty-nesters after 18 years. This is a doctoral degree will not ask for anything in return once its obtained and will simply open doors and windows that we thought was not possible. Congrats on your accomplish.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for reading! I’ve still got a few years to go before I finish the doctorate. Hope your program isn’t facing too many disruptions with covid and everything!

      Liked by 1 person

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