My thesis angst began one Friday afternoon in February of my freshman year. I had just returned from an English 10 section when the phone rang. It was Gil.
"Julie, would you do me a very, very big favor?"
"Sure, Gil, what?"
"Go to the stock room in the basement of the Science Center and buy two cartridges for the Mac printer. Bring them to Zach's room in Adams House. His thesis is due at 5."
I looked at my clock. It was not yet noon. I grabbed my jacket, told my roommate I'd meet her at lunch and ran out of Greenough into the cold, bright day.
In the Science Center basement two people stood in line in front of me. When it was my turn, the man behind the counter started closing the big gray door.
"Wait," I screamed in terror.
"It's my lunch hour." He looked a little surprised.
"But you can't. It's my friend Zach. His thesis is due in less than five hours, and I promised. I mean, I have to bring him these cartridges now." The tears came naturally to my eyes.
"Well, okay." He let me in, closing the door after me.
I ran all the way to Adams and then climbed at least four flights of stairs. Gil opened the door.
It was a harsh sight for a freshman's eyes. In the common room buzzed two printers. In the bedroom sat Zach, frantically typing footnotes. He did not look up from under a three-day beard. Gil had been working on the bibliography at another Mac. Potato chip bags lay open on the bed; random chocolate chip cookies spotted the wood floors.
For three years this picture haunted my thoughts whenever anyone mentioned a senior thesis. I, like Zach, concentrated in History and Literature, one of the few departments that require theses. And I, like Zach. would be spending the first half of senior year in 14 Plympton Street, putting out a daily newspaper.
But I was determined not to freak out about my thesis. All my old and wizened friends had warned me to choose a topic early and research it over the summer. I tried. Really.
But in the end, which I guess was really just the beginning, I blew off the summer and didn't settle on an advisor or a topic until the fall. My first few meetings with my advisor, David, who had been my junior tutor, went something like this:
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