I had horrible fears about my defense. Visions of my prelim exam flashed through my head. Of course, that happened on 9/11/01 so as long as there was no national disaster/tragedy/unthinkable horror happening on the same day as my defense it couldn’t possibly be as bad as my prelim. However, I still feared it like it would be this impossibly difficult thing to pass. No matter that everyone else passes their defense. I was sure I would be the only one who didn’t.
The truth is, it wasn’t that bad. Imagine if you were very interested in a particular topic, you read a good paper about it, and now the first author was standing in front of you and you could ask any question you want. That’s what it was like. Not every committee is the same of course, and maybe others take this whole “private grilling” thing much more seriously. But on the whole, I see why people told me not to worry. Not that there was any way I could believe them beforehand. And, I don’t expect other grad students to believe me right before their defense. But, there was really no point to worrying.
Now, I have a whole bunch of changes to make to my thesis and they need to be done in the next two weeks. But, if I can get through my defense without having a nervous breakdown, I can get through anything.