Friday, September 17, 2010

Milestones of a sort

It occurred to me this morning as I was driving to work that it was six years ago today that I defended my doctoral thesis. As with such sudden realizations at times, the memory of that day came flooding back rather powerfully. Perhaps it was because the memory came in the morning, while in the car, that the first thing I remembered was nearly being in a car accident en route to campus.

The defence was scheduled for one o'clock, and my original intention had been to sleep in, relax in my apartment and just chill until almost noon. Of course, that didn't happen—I woke at 5am, wide awake, though I resolutely stayed in bed until almost seven before sheer nerves drove me up. I made coffee, tried watching TV, tried playing a video game, tried, even (so quixotically) to read ... but nothing was working, so instead of pacing around my small apartment I gave in and drove to school a little after nine-thirty.

When I was halfway, I was very nearly t-boned by a guy running a stop sign. I screeched to a halt, he screeched to a halt, inches away from each other, and he made apologetic gestures. He must have been a bit confused that I wasn't looking or gesticulating at him, but rather had my face turned upward and was shaking my fist at the roof of my car. What I was actually shouting was "No, Universe! Not today, you don't!"

Anyway, I made it up unscathed, and the rest is now history. The whole defence, as it happens, turned out to be a rather enjoyable affair—the examination committee was quite impressed with my thesis, and we all had fun hashing out some of the ideas and issues I'd written about. Turns out that when you spend several years researching and writing a 300+ page project, you actually become the authority in the room on the subject. Who knew?

Fortuitously, that afternoon there was a departmental function at the Grad Club, a meet and greet for faculty and grad students. We all had name tags printed on white stickers ready for us, and to this day one of my fondest moments was when M.J. Kidnie, a relatively new hire with whom I had struck up a good friendship, running over with a pen to strike out "PhD Candidate" under my name and write "Dr." in front of it.

The, um, rest of the departmental function and my defence party that evening are sort of vague in my memory.

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