I feel like canceling things that begin with the letter C. All things beginning with a C would be cancelled. That includes Cancer, my dissertation Conclusion, and all future Chemo. My nose has been so up close and inside the conclusion writing lately that it’s hard to see a way out of this cancer-conclusion moment.
What are you supposed to write in these things, anyway? Didn’t I conclude each chapter, and isn’t that enough? My brilliant supervisor, in effort to keep me from cancelling, came up with this silly little metaphor that has really helped me in the past few days. It seems writing a dissertation conclusion is a little like hopping in a canoe and picking a team of paddlers. The paddlers and I have some things to discuss. Namely, youth media. And so we chat and I hope I’ve picked scholars with strong enough arms to get to the finish line.
When I first heard this canoe metaphor, I instantly remembered how the old, sunken, yellow canoe looked at the bottom of Lake Vera at Camp Celio, the summer camp I attended as a child. That yellow canoe had lake mung growing between the planks and if the water was still enough, you could even see the rotting canoe seats at the bottom of the lake. There were many ghost stories about the fate of the campers who sunk with that canoe, and what sorts of havoc their ghosts could wreck on those of us spending summers floating on Lake Vera.
I don’t want my conclusion canoe to sink. I want to paddle forward but my arms are tired, and I have a good excuse for tired arms: cancer. I need to find a better current. My fellow grad students, precious people that they are, helped me last night to see that there are lots of other canoes on this scholarly lake, and that those other canoes can point mine in the right direction. And they helped me see the total bad-ass scholars hiding in my canoe with whom I get to talk smartly. Someone will surely sound an alarm if we start to sink, and there are boats near me with life preservers in them. It was such a relief to have the research group help me figure out which way the canoe is going and what the most interesting conversations I can have with my fellow paddlers are.
Of course, my canoe is also a little sick. It has cancer. Sometimes right in the middle of an awesome conversation I realize my canoe is impaired and it makes it harder to hear the scholars talking, and sometimes I have to stop paddling and patch up holes. And sometimes the patch job makes everything worse. A hurting body makes writing and thinking exponentially more challenging. We forget about the material existence of our bodies until they scream back at us painfully. I took for granted that canoes float until my canoe started getting holes in it, and now nothing can be taken for granted. But last night, I realized that senior scholars have life preservers and other friendly grad students will happily plug up holes as fast as they can so that I can paddle to the finish line. I’m trying, it’s just horrendous, horrendous timing. The chemo is poking a shit-ton of holes in my canoe. My canoe seems to have CANCER written on the side in red letters. Normally these canoes don’t show such signs of wear until you’re at least an Associate Prof!
So yah, I feel like cancelling. Cancer sucks. Cancel it please. Conclusions suck a little less than I thought, but writing is painful, so if the writing part can be cancelled I’ll take it. Cancer seeps into conclusion writing like a really creepy snake with beady eyes that you don’t see until it’s wrapped itself around your neck really tightly. Yah, cancer is creepy. It should be cancelled.