Dissertations and Roller Coasters

I once knew a roller coaster “fanatic,” and in retrospect I imagine his fanaticism would make him a candidate for placement somewhere on the autistic spectrum. He sought out roller coasters like some sort of addict…most weekends you could find him at Six Flags or, if he was out of town, at the theme park closest to him. I once asked the fanatic what he liked best about roller coasters. He answered, “I don’t know…I just like them.” I then asked him what he liked least about roller coasters, and he said, simply, “Lines.” He then went on to inform me of the best days to go “riding.” Mother’s Day, without a doubt, is the best…no lines.

Marquette is in the middle of spring break right now. As a consequence, the library is like a graveyard, as the undergrads have all departed (dorms are closed, apparently). This is the first spring break that I don’t really have anything pressing down…no assignments due in the next month, no in-class presentations, no lectures, etc. The only thing I have to do is research and write my dissertation. Some may ask, “Shouldn’t you take a break?” Maybe, but I have come to realize that writing a dissertation is much like riding a roller coaster. Allow me to explain my analogy.

Graduate School :: Six Flags as Dissertation Writing :: Roller Coasters

Six Flags, like graduate school, is filled with people of different stripes. Some have come to ride the roller coasters, and some have come because they want to be with their friends. Some have come because they feel forced to do so (for whatever reason). Those who have come to ride the roller coasters genuinely love to do so. They will keep riding until the park closes. Those who have come to be with their friends are indifferent to roller coasters. They will ride them, but without loving or hating them. Those who have come because they feel forced will hate every minute. They don’t care much for roller coasters, and will spend much of their time simply watching others have fun.

Roller coasters, then, are the things that you do in graduate school. In my analogy, I have used dissertation writing as an example, but that’s only because that’s where I’m at. Like the roller coaster fanatic mentioned earlier, those who truly love the work of a graduate student will take every opportunity to “ride.” Especially wonderful are those times where the park is otherwise empty, as when the park is empty yet open, you get to ride more than you normally would! I suppose spring break in this analogy would be akin to Mother’s Day…Six Flags (the library) is open, yet no one is there. Gone are the lines (papers to grade, office hours to hold, classes to attend, etc.)For the roller coaster fanatic, spring break is the time to ride!

There is, of course, a caveat to this analogy. Those who love to ride roller coasters must control themselves, as everyone knows that if you ride too much, you will throw up. The case is similar with dissertation writing.


2 thoughts on “Dissertations and Roller Coasters

  1. Perhaps the wives of graduate students are akin to the mothers on Mothers Day? Excited for the roller coaster riders most of the time, but on their day, they are ready to do something non-roller coaster-y! I’m not sure when “their day” is, though… I’ll get back to you on that.

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