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Thursday, 23 February 2012

Upgrade Panic

On Monday (27th) I have my upgrade viva. Now, despite my supervisor telling me I 'should be fine', this is me and I am positively, absolutely, undeniably and reliably dead. Sorry, I slipped into Munchkinland for a moment there. I'm probably not going to be crushed by a flying house on Monday but I'm not counting my chickens until I'm home safe. A run of bad luck could easily spiral out of control.

In theory, my upgrade really should be fine. I've made more progress in the last four months than I thought was possible. I fully expected to be gently told I shouldn't continue and see the doors of postgraduate education close on me forever. That hasn't happened. My upgrade chapter is unrecognisable and - I think - pretty good. I'm evaluating a lost author alongside one of the masters of sensation fiction - what can possibly go wrong? Well, I'll have to be at the upgrade viva for a start.

I turn into a mute under pressure. It's just the way I am. Call it lack of confidence, lack of training or whatever you like, but if I lose my step in any conversation (be it friendly or official) then I turn into a statue, only known to be human by the periodic shaking and shivering. And once I slip out of my stride I find it very difficult to get back into it. One memory sticks out, one time I managed to pull myself back from the brink. It was during my undergraduate degree, for a drama unit, where my group were doing a scene from Othello (I was Emilia) and then a presentation on it. I got through the scene fine but during my presentation segment I lost it. I said 'ummm.....' and there was silence for well over a minute. No one stepped in to help. Don't ask me how I pulled myself back, I only know I managed it somehow. But I'm arguably worse than I was a few years ago so Monday will be more difficult than that was. Besides, I'll be on my own. Me against the world (unless I can pick up a few friends along the way but will they let a Scarecrow in?).

I'm keeping myself awake by posing potential questions in the middle of the night. This is after my supervisor told me to relax and not to pick holes in my argument before the viva. If I'm like this on Thursday then by Sunday I'll be a wide-eyed monster rocking back and forth in bed whispering the names of Edmund Yates's novels on a loop.

One thing is clear: I have to keep talking on Monday. I'll try not to get hit by a house. In fact, I'll go into the viva with the spirit of Dorothy Gale on my shoulder and I may even drop a house on the upgrade panel. Hang on...would that affect my chances?

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