When I finished typing the last few words I set aside my dissertation for about a week.
I was afraid to read it, because I knew there would be typos amidst that sea of words. It’s just impossible, not matter how many proofreaders, no matter how much time spent, to produce something perfect. And while I know that, I didn’t want to experience the pang of how those mistakes would mar the crisp, white pages. I wanted to believe that there was some way that all my hard work would pay off with perfection.
Like I said, that lasted about a week, and then I had to face reality. I read through it, in preparation for my dissertation defense, and there were many typos.
And it was still okay.
In fact, the typos reminded me that I’m not in pursuit of something perfect, but something human, something meaningful. What’s more, I could see beyond the typos to those people in China who changed my life. As I read, I was humbled to see and know that despite the congratulations that would be heaped on me and only me after the defense, this dissertation, was truly the work of many hands. The typos reminded me that despite the perfection that’s so idolized in academic fields, we academics are imperfect people who rely heavily on the minds, kindness, and generosity of others to produce our knowledge.
There were moments where the typos made me wonder whether I had any business defending a dissertation toward a Ph.D., but I’ve also realized that it’s great to recognize that while you have learned a lot, you still have much more to learn. It’s not so bad to see typos and be humbled and recognize that you’d rather be transformed and human and vulnerable than perfect and magnificent and independent.
This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful, in all circumstances, for typos, for friends, for family, for foster families in China, for dissertations, for new journeys, for imperfection, for growth, for love, for peace, and for God.
What about you?