I recently (two-ish weeks ago) finished my master’s degree. I submitted my last paper through email. I received my thesis grade via the school’s website. Yet there was very little fanfare to mark my finish, save for my loving husband popping some champagne for the two of us that night. I don’t know what I expected; if I thought my computer would shoot confetti, or whistle, or high-five me. But the close of this chapter felt somehow underwhelming.
Last weekend we (my husband, son, and me) took the train down to my school (which is no longer “my school” I guess, and, never was “my” school to begin with, so the attachment to it and possession over it is interesting) and attended the graduation ceremony. There was fanfare there, for sure, complete with a procession, a white tent, and passed hors d’oeuvres. This time I was overwhelmed. Getting there on time, finding out where to stand where to pee where to send my two loves while I stood in an ever-growing line of other grads wearing velvet sashes and uncomfortable shoes. The PhD graduates were there too, though they were lining up in some other place, sequestered in a secret tunnel, I presume, with more velvet and even goofier hats.
The ceremony was lovely. And brief. The PhD’s sat on the stage (altar?), and we MA and MS’s in the choir pews below. I won’t lie about desperately wanting to be on the stage with the dissertation-writing scholars above me.
But that is not in the cards for me now. I’m tired. I miss my family. Grad school was, in many ways, a wonderful experience, and I am grateful that I had the privilege of attending. It was also exhausting and demanding in ways I wasn’t prepared for.
I have gotten sick twice since I sent out my last paper. First, it was a rather painful bout of tonsillitis, which led to antibiotics and days on the couch, and now I have a run-of-the-mill summer cold. The receding endorphins and the sudden decrease in anxiety causes my body to crash.
There is an emotional crash happening, too. Though I am overjoyed at my freedom to be wholly present with my family again, and I am even (surprisingly) enthralled by my submersion into the domestic, I am also sad. There is a subtle, whispering undercurrent in my new routine, mostly heard during small moments of my newfound quiet solitude.
There is a phenomenon among artists and academics (and others, I’m sure) called “post project depression.” It’s the term used to describe the let down after the stress of a major project is over. It’s not clinical, but if you Google it, there are lots of posts and advice about how to cope. I am not yet coping.
I am still waking up in panicky sweats about deadlines. I am still feverishly checking my email, anticipating some missed assignment or mandatory reading or suggested conference. I am still shuffling through documents, nervously wondering why I feel like I am forgetting something.
I am forgetting something. That it’s over. My papers are in. There is a maroon tassel with a gold “2016” insignia hanging on my fridge and my diploma is in an envelope on the dining room table beneath a Lego ship and some faded Pokémon cards.
So I am trying something new. I am trying this blog. I bought this domain as a gift to myself in order to put my self out there. To let go of formality a bit and release all of the words and thoughts and ideas that have been simmering beneath semesters of seminar papers and proposals and theories that don’t belong to me in order to write my world as I see it. Through pop culture and books, through moments of Zen and heartbreak. Through the eyes of my favorite literary people and my favorite human people. Through my own stories, and in my own words.
I will write here, because writing is where I take shape.