“We’ll pass Steph eventually,” they joked about my comps defense, after grilling me for two hours and deciding I needed to clarify a few things. “I want to pound this point in,” says one of my esteemed professors. “Not to pile things on,” says another. Yeah, right! My chair tried to make me feel better: “People take comps at all levels in this department. The questions you’ve taken on are humongous.” There was a sidebar at one point, about how I tend to experiment in real life…
I still make too many assumptions about shared understanding that makes the reader have to work too hard. This is part of what invites so much interrogation. The interrogation itself isn’t bad, although it is hard! Being questioned so intensively feels hard but it is “the ideas that fight,” as my favorite antagonist clarified when I said, “You know I like fighting with you.” (This, after kicking me a few times.)
Some would argue that it is not politic to experiment with comps. The stakes are rather high, eh? Yet, while we were there, I was aware that I’ll never have such an opportunity again: three brilliant minds focused exclusively on whether or not I know what the hell I’m talking about and guiding me through weaknesses, confusions, and potential pitfalls. They push hard because I reach far.

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