I want to write a nice long post about how on Friday, I defended my dissertation, first by giving a talk, then by answering questions posed to me by my committee. But really, what I want most of all, is just to enjoy doing absolutely nothing for a little while, as well as starting to reclaim those things that make my life so wonderful, but which I've had to put on the backburners lately as I focused in on getting through this last graduate school hurdle. The good news, is that it was all worth it, because I PASSED! I know, many of you will say you didn't doubt it for a moment, and truth be told, when the day came, I felt really calm and prepared. In many ways it was a very surreal day, because seven years is a very long time, and there were definitely some significant potholes along the way. I have seen defense day (or D-Day, as it is referred to around these parts) come and go for a lot of friends at this point, but part of me just stopped expecting that it would also happen for me. I either thought I would somehow be a graduate student forever, or I would leave without my doctorate (believe me, this came very close to happening several times). There are still times where I can't believe that I managed to write an ENTIRE dissertation, and that I got to a point where I was confident in my abilities, and knew that I knew my topic very well. I fully expected to be a prickly bundle of nerves come D-Day, but in the end, I was very zen, and I actually found this final committee meeting to be the one I had the most fun at, and also the most laid-back of all my experiences during my time in graduate school. I felt in control and like I knew my future, like more than anything, the people who have watched me grow as a researcher and a scientist these past seven years were just happy to be there to celebrate and mark this final rite of passage. So, yes, I passed, and am now officially Dr. Steph! Thank you to all of you for your supportive comments cheering me on these past few months, even as I let this blog go into hibernation mode. I've heard people say that following their dissertation, they were mentally useless for a week or two, but I kind of feel the opposite! I want to relax, and enjoy the weird reality of not waking up in the morning with a tight not of panic already hard in my chest, and that if I want to lie on the couch and watch an entire season of The Vampire Diaries or play a video game, I can! I can start working out again, without worrying that half hour would be better spent revising or making tributes to the gods of academia. Best yet, I love knowing that all these mental resources in my brain are now freed up for some serious (or light-hearted!) fiction reading! I can't say that I have missed reading these past few months, simply because I've been so burned out that I just haven't had the energy or interest to read, but now I look at all the wonderful books that are waiting for me, and I am excited to learn their secrets. But I'm also excited to learn the secrets that the future holds, because for the first time in a very long time, I no longer have a five-year plan, or an obvious "next step" on a traditional career trajectory. It's time to spend some time rediscovering the joys of a life unplanned, and I look forward to taking some time to think about my passions (and maybe discover some new ones!), and think about what I want the next phase of my life to be. I should be done making plans at this point, but I doubt I'll ever fully tame the Type-A planner inside me, so hopefully, starting next week, I'll finally have some new bookish content for this blog. My life is my own once again, and I'm so excited to channel this renewed energy and enthusiasm into the things that make my heart soar. Right now, that means, jumping back into bed, and cuddling with Tony and the dogs, and then possibly lounging by the pool on this long-weekend Sunday and cracking the spine (only figuratively though!) of a new book. To those who have read this far, I hope your Memorial Day weekend is just as lovely! Doctor's orders!