Three weeks ago I drafted a list of articles and books I needed to read in preparation for my Ph.D. qualifying exam "in March or so". I finalized that list about a week ago, but as it turns out, I won't have until March. I'm taking the exam on Wednesday, December 15th, four weeks from today. Why? Because one of my committee members is going to be out of the country from January through June. Because another committee member is going on maternity leave in January and will be only sporadically available. Because the third of my committee members thinks I'm ready now anyway (he's wrong, but the vote of confidence is nice). Because I'm not teaching this semester, and I might as well do the hard stuff now because everything be harder when I'm teaching again. Because I want desperately to get this whole multi-year quals ordeal over with so that I can get on with research. Because I am capable of reading and absorbing 48 distinct articles or book chapters in thirty days. Because I was actually able to get my whole committee to agree on a date (and time, even!), and I'm not about to give up a precious thing like that just because the particular date and time happen to be, you know, two and a half months sooner than I intended it to be. Because I am criminally insane.
But the total of 48 isn't as bad as it sounds, since 32 of those are chapters of Pierce (I'm reading the whole damn thing! A chapter every day! My plan is nothing if not methodical), and some of those are short, and a lot (although not all) are straightforward and familiar. The rest of the readings are a mix of journal articles, conference papers, and chapters from other books. I've read a lot of them before, but now I'm not reading them to crank out a paper critique for a class; I'm reading them solely to try to learn things. (How lucky I am, that it's my job to try to learn things!) I'll need to get through one or two of them every day, but there's some overflow space at the end for the inevitable slips. Writing it out like this makes it seem not so bad, and I'm actually kind of excited. I've already learned a little from what I've read so far: I can actually sort of explain to you what the deal is with foundational proof-carrying code. In four weeks' time I hope to be able to sort of explain what the deal is with several other topics. Plan to be. Have to be.
My sister says, "Oh, four weeks is plenty. You can do anything in four weeks!" I don't know if she means the general "you" or if she means me, but I'm choosing to take it as a vote of confidence. I can do this. Taking the exam sometime this year was my original plan anyway, and I had only been putting it off because trying to prepare for it and also finish the other project that I'm scrambling to finish this year seemed impossible. But that project is actually going reasonably well, and my committee is on board with this, as long as I think I can handle it. So now I've just got to...handle it. Here we go.