A question straight out of Hamlet, yet modified for overcommitted and neurotic Ivy League students in the 21st century: To write a thesis, or not to write a thesis. That was the question, and it was a huge one. A cold Wednesday afternoon in January 2013, it was my first day of HIST1992: History Honors Workshop for Thesis Writers, and my stomach turned as I fidgeted in my seat. The professor leading the seminar handed out a series of papers—op-eds, letters, and even a feature that ran in the Herald—that grappled with this large existential question. The concept of a thesis loomed large in the imaginations of these panicked college students quietly freaking out in the stately Pavilion Room of Peter Green House that made one feel like an academic simply by being pensive within it.
Pro: “A community of concentrators.” Con: “It wasn’t worth the stress.” As we 14 students hashed out the pros and cons in each piece, we sunk deeper into our seats, tensing as our collegiate future flashed before our eyes. Yet after careful consideration, I ultimately decided to write a thesis—entering into holy matrimony with the obscure and weirdly specific topic of American-Jewish Post-War Reconstruction in Post-Holocaust Greece—and remained committed to him through and through. It was only after a three-semester-long labor of love that I successfully brought my first child—a spiral-bound 135-page thesis—into the world. I was in it for the long haul.
To this end, several thanks are in order. While this joyous birth could not have been possible without my advisors and professors in the History department (literally, it would have been impossible), I give thanks to these influential humans in my actual thesis. This piece, however, deals solely with those forces that played incredibly important roles in the process from the earliest stages of the project through its completion. These are their stories.
To my carrel, my own personal
rRock (literally), whom I lovingly named “Carole” (the letter e for a little extra spice) in place of her more boring name, “Rock 2-52.” You have been my sense of consistency in an ever-changing world; the structure through which I could shelve my stress (which took form in my 20+ books); my favorite (read: only) dinner date. Thank you for letting me bury my face into your arms and cry during my lowest lows. I loathe the horrible people who stole you from me and neglected to cleanse you after taking advantage of you, leaving crumbs from many a Nature Valley Granola Bar in your wake. Lysm.
To my couch. Your unwavering support—especially during those breakdowns when I lay down in fetal position stress-eating kale chips—sustained me through this long and trying process. Thanks are also due to the USA Network for its “binge marathons” of Law and Order: SVU and allowing me to find comfort in the successes of the criminal justice system… for six hours at a time. Detectives Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler’s butt-kicking detective work and incredible sunglasses reminded me that justice is always served, and provided me with an incredible sense of perspective in my deepest, darkest moments in my own personal hell as I compulsively noshed and sobbed. You are my heroes.
To the lovely Baristas of Blue State Coffee. Thank you for literally fueling my insanity, memorizing my order, and living out each day with me—both at 8 a.m. for the first large iced coffee, even in the winter months, and at 5 p.m. for the refill. Without you, my bank statements probably wouldn’t have caused my parents to question my spending behavior or tell me that I have an addiction. Moreover, thank you for not judging me for wearing the same pair of leggings for days on end.
To Agnes Obel, whose album Aventine played on repeat from April 2013 through April 2014. You are my only friend. Not really, but kind of. Thanks for singing my ear off. Your strings, piano, and angelic voice reminded me that there was beauty left in this world. Thanks for keeping me (somewhat) sane.
To my actual friends (and not the Danish singers that I pretended were my friends so that I didn’t feel as lonely in the cold, dark stacks, even with my girl Carole), your patience and understanding are inspiring. Thank you for putting up with my many requests to eat Andreas or East Side Pockets for dinner because it was “topical”; for understanding that sleep > everything else; for still keeping me as your friend, even when I could only think in terms of Greek Jews and humanitarian relief, and when you slowly saw my brain turn to mush. Thank you for popping the champagne with me after I finally got out of my three-semester labor after pushing, pushing, pushing, and finally bringing a baby into the world, and thank you for continuing to put up with me as I live out my free days as I simultaneously sleep, drink, and talk about my thesis all the more.