Un Tel Travail

Inspired by all this talk of New Wave cinema, I attempt a photo that looks like a film still

Sometimes I have to pinch myself I feel so lucky. Specifically, I am blown away by the talents, gifts, and brilliance of my friends. How the heck did I end up with such amazing people in my life? I am blessed.

My friend Ericka has been my partner in crime for the past several months. Both of us spent the better part of summer and fall locked away, each with our own writing project underway. We’d check in with each other, making sure the other wasn’t going stir-crazy and insisting on tea and cupcakes if they were.

Today, I witnessed the fruit of Ericka’s work: she defended her 577-page (!) dissertation on “L’Amour, La Femme, et La Nouvelle Vague” before a jury who are experts on the subject. She was officially conferred the title of “doctor” 3 hours later.

Whoa.

Did I mention Ericka’s a native Texan and wrote her dissertation in French? Did you notice that page count? Could I defend anything in another language, much less before people who consider it their special domaine? I had to smile when her advisor talked of love as a “French specialty.”

Well, I don’t know about that, but the French do know how to intimidate.

"Thesis Room" - Take a seat

Notice that one chair behind the big table, facing the jury? There sat brave Ericka, with 10 of us watching the proceedings. I have no idea how it works in the States, but I didn’t know a defense could be public in this way.

I am grateful to have been allowed to witness it. I had tears in my eyes when the jury conferred the title on her. And it motivated me to continue my work. (Yeah, one of us was much more productive as she locked herself away).

Well, I have just finished the first draft of a 45-minute lecture I will have to deliver for my graduating residency. The critical thesis is already done. Hopefully soon I will get back to the novel.

The desire to accomplish something – to finish! – was definitely heightened in me today. But more than anything, I feel grateful to have such awesome people in my life. (Did I mention this is the same friend who’s also a singer-songerwriter and purveyor of honky tonk in Paris?)

Bravo, Ericka! Kick-ass in every way.

The newly crowned doctor with well-deserved bottle of champagne

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28 Responses to “Un Tel Travail”


  1. 1 Susan Ross Donohue February 9, 2011 at 4:50 am

    Way to go Ericka! I’m studying French now and can just (maybe) string a sentence together. Congratulations!

  2. 3 thetravelingpear February 9, 2011 at 5:48 am

    How completely awesome for your friend. She needs a freakin medal for that one! I love that she’s a Texan:) That gives me hope that I too, with my Texas drawl, I will be able to master the art of speaking French. Writing a 500 page dissertation, well that may be in another life time.

  3. 5 Lindsey February 9, 2011 at 10:51 am

    Wow. First of all, I can’t imagine doing a PhD in any language let alone French (and yes, the page count of her dissertation is BEYOND daunting!). Bravo to your friend!

    • 6 paris (im)perfect February 9, 2011 at 11:53 am

      Yeah, the French part is what kills me everytime. The members of the jury called her analysis and writing style nuanced, literary, full of “sensibility.” Um…hmm. I just try to communicate to get stuff at the market in French :) So, so impressive to do something this challenging in another language!

  4. 7 pariskarin February 9, 2011 at 11:12 am

    The photo of Ericka with the champagne bottle is priceless!! :)

    Wow. I feel a bit like you: in awe and inspired by Ericka’s story. I am so impressed. Okay, and there is a part of me that is thinking to myself, “Yeesh, kiddo. You are nearly 43 and what have YOU accomplished?!?” Yeah. This story is a bit humbling, too. I am so proud of people who can kick life’s ass this way, but then I also feel a bit of a loser by comparison, lol!! I mean, I know there are people who probably look at my life and think I’ve done some cool stuff, too. Comparisons are odious, as the saying goes. I also remember people like painter Grandma Moses, or even Renoir, who did not really do some of his greatest works until he was well into his 60s. Maybe I am just a late bloomer. ;-)

    Ericka is definitely to be admired. She’s just peaked the intellectual equivalent of Everest, huh! Many, many congratulations to her! I’m glad that you have found a friend in her. Thanks for sharing about her success. It definitely makes me realize that when one sets one’s mind to something, anything is possible!

    Karin
    (an alien parisienne)

    • 8 paris (im)perfect February 9, 2011 at 11:52 am

      Yes, in awe is definitely the best word. I wanted to write about the defense itself, the subject matter (very interesting), the questions, (the jury’s rambling monologues! :) ), but really it all came down to being impressed and humbled by my friend’s accomplishment. But this is *totally* not a story to make you feel like a loser. Jeez! It’s a story of hope and gratitude. It’s been a journey of NINE YEARS for Ericka and I saw the last feverish push and how hard she worked. Just reminds me that I am in charge of my own destiny, that I need to put in the work should I hope to accomplish what I want. As you say, once you put your mind to something….! :)

      Karin, special line just for you: you can do eet!

      • 9 pariskarin February 9, 2011 at 2:14 pm

        “Karin, special line just for you: you can do eet!”

        LOL! Thanks, Sion. :D

        Thanks for the additional info that this was a journey nine years in the making. I don’t even know Ericka, but reading that makes me even MORE proud of her!!

        Okay, this also makes me see that I need to quit pissing around on FB and Twitter today and get to writing a book review I promised to write and post in January. I’ve had extenuating circumstances so I have been pardoned for not finishing it, but it is time to get to work.

        Perseverance. That’s what I know it takes. Some “can do” attitude. I’m grateful for this post & comments, Sion! Off to work with me now. Give me a virtual kick in the rear if you see me on Twitter in the next couple of hours, lol.

  5. 10 Franck February 9, 2011 at 11:49 am

    “The love, the woman and the new wave”?

    It sounds like a Beachboys greatest hits compilation, isn’t it?

    It’s odd to think that for years we wondered where had gone George Bush’s grey matter!

    Your Texan “double-brained” friend Ericka is now a suspect!

    She defended a 576-page stuff in a foreign language!!!! And a difficult one, I know what I am talking about.

    I could not defend a shopping list!!!

    Hurra for Ericka!

    • 11 paris (im)perfect February 9, 2011 at 12:30 pm

      Yeah, it really took guts for Ericka to tackle this subject. A foreigner talking about love in New Wave films? She did an awesome job. The jury agreed that she should publish her work – it was original and could serve as a new base text. That’s saying a lot as there’s already been so much written about the New Wave!

  6. 12 Tanya in Transition February 9, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    Congratulations Ericka!
    You are so right Sion. It’s a post about gratitude.

    We must try to remember that we accomplish so much every day, even in the small things we do. This was a HUGE accomplishment for Ericka — I am in awe!!! But, as you wrote, this isn’t about the defense of her thesis; this is about her, her journey, and her success. And we all have success stories to tell. Thank you for sharing this one. It made my day, really.

    Now, I have to go and be a success in the kitchen and rustle up something for lunch! ;-)

    • 13 paris (im)perfect February 9, 2011 at 12:32 pm

      Tanya, you always have the best way of saying things. Yes! We all have success stories and this was about celebrating a friend’s success! And we all have them!

      Also, I can’t cook, so I am also in awe of you – wish I could come dig into whatever you’re rustling up. For me, it will just be Picard :)

  7. 14 Barbara Hall February 9, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    A very inspiring post to read of the wonderful accomplishment of your friend and enjoyable to read the comments from other readers. Karin’s and Tanya’s remarks also resonated for me — hopefully it’s not too late to become fully fluent in French and to reach my potential as a photographer — small and large accomplishments in my everyday life.
    Really enjoy your blog Sion!

    • 15 paris (im)perfect February 9, 2011 at 7:29 pm

      Thanks so much, Barbara. I’m so glad you like the blog! It’s definitely not too late to reach those goals. Language acquisition is so much about having the desire and passion to learn and you have that. And as far as reaching your potential as a photographer, our art can only grow as we grow. This helps me so much to think about – my writing will only mature over the years. This is such a good thing! I think it must be the same for all the arts.

  8. 18 becky February 10, 2011 at 8:19 am

    hurray for ericka. i love you, darlin’, you kick ass!

  9. 20 Miss Jolie February 10, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    Just a great great blog !

  10. 22 Julianna February 11, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    @ Ericka: Well done! And wishing you the best of luck, too, with your graduate work. paris (im)perfect is lovely!

  11. 23 Opal February 11, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    I can barely defend myself at the prefecture or at the over priced marché stand so FREAKING KUDOS to Erica!!! And not long from now it will be you! I don’t care what language it is in, defending your work infront of more than 1 person takes GUTS! Warrior women!

  12. 24 Stephanie February 15, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    This is so inspiring! Makes me more excited about applying to Paris grad schools and chasing after my dreams! May lots more fêtes with overflowing Champagne be in each of our futures!

  13. 25 Geneva Finstaad February 16, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    Congratulations!!!!!!
    I can just hear your Dad braggin. He and Mom are so proud of you. I can also hear your grandmother; she was always telling about some great accomplishment Erika had made. The other members of the family said, “but, she only has one to brag about so she has to make up for all our bragging about all our granchildren.”
    Hope you can still talk “Texian” when you get back home.

  14. 26 Wayne A. Rohne May 3, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    Dear Ericka: I am so proud of you !! I know your Dad is bursting his cloud, and your Mom is glowing with pride. May your future be filled with Joy and much achievement. May God bless you in all you do!!1 Wayne A. Rohne

  15. 27 Wilfred F. Bunge May 4, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    Ericka,

    I have fond memories of your Dad as a fellow member of the Luther College class of 1953. Further, I recall that you were along with your parents on the occasion of the 50th anniversary class reunion here in Decorah. That must have been October 1953. Congratulations on the completion of your Ph. D. I can hear the echoes of your father’s voice as he might have reported this signal accomplishment.

    Best wishes!

    Wilfred F. Bunge

  16. 28 Wilfred F. Bunge May 4, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    Oops! I should have written October 2003.

    Will Bunge


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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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