Passing my prelims was fantastic, in that I felt like I was actually *done* with something. Except for the part where I really am not done with anything: I'm just starting.
For me, the first two years of graduate schools have been like a series of mad dashes from one deadline to the next. The coursework race, the (insert conference here) scrambles, the speculative abstract panics. There was always another major deadline looming. This week, for the first time, my advisor and I had a discussion about what I should be working on (!) to generate papers (that maybe he'll read?) and make progress, without any specific deadlines!
I hadn't realized to what an extent my life has been ruled by specific deadlines until suddenly, it's not. Yes, I have two conferences this fall, but I already have most of the data, because I was actually involved in writing and submitting the abstracts.
Throughout my scholastic career, I've rarely had a deadline more than six months away. If I hadn't been a warped teenager already looking at graduate schools, you rarely plan more 2-3 years ahead. Now, I have to somehow shift from the last 16+ years of sprinting to running a marathon...