I've realized, as I write the grant proposals, re-hashing what I'm going to do, and as I start the outlining of the thesis itself, that I need to let go of the sense that I am having an impact on the world. A friend whom I haven't seen in a while told me about her research project. And while I found her work interesting and unusual, I wasn't sure...why it matters. I know there have been moments when I've realized that dissertations are about rites of passage, proof of diligence and dedication. But somehow, I get stuck in my work when I ask the question -- "who cares?" The fact that my dissertation topic has some applied, real-world relevance has been a source of pride. I think it has also been a form of arrogance, assuming that my work was more "real" than some of my peers' work. I simply need to prove that it matters to me, and that I've satisfied that criterion with rigorous research.
The problem with that, however, is that it makes it much harder to complete. If I know why it matters to me, why should I care what others think? I'm not sure if this is a defeatist attitude, a lazy attitude, or (again) an arrogant attitude. I need someone to tell me why I should bother.