I finished my thesis.
It was about three a.m. After two weeks of sleeping badly and working stupid hours, and an epic all-nighter spent in The Zone, I finished my thesis. Turning my thesis into a PDF was the most satisfying, most exciting thing I had ever done in my entire life. (actually, no; turning it into a PDF again at 6:30 in the morning, after I had checked the first PDF, found many mistakes in it, gone back and corrected them, and scrapped the first one, was the most satisfying thing in the world.)
I sent it off to the binders, who had promised that, if I got it to them by nine a.m., they would bind and deliver it for me that same day. I prayed that they would receive the file and that there would be no mess-up. (to be honest, though, I didn’t really care. If there was a mess-up, I would deal with it.)
So I sent it off and I went to wake the Boy (at 7:21) and tell him the good news, trying not to scream with happiness.
I went straight outside, got on my bike, and went swimming. (The sky was light! The trees had leaves!) Teenagers were walking to school in little groups. I stepped into the warm swimming pool and told my swimming friend I had just finished my PhD. The happiness of swimming, PhD-free, unencumbered by thoughts of what time I must leave and which chapter I must get back to, was incredible. I went home and made myself breakfast, and ate it at a table laden with flowers (which came on Saturday as a surprise from a lovely friend…) I went to the gym and did a yoga class. I sat on a sun lounger. I spent the day on an emotional rollercoaster, vacilating between euphoria and mild despair: pure pleasure at having finished, interspersed with thoughts of what I have done, and what I have failed to do; the woefully short bibliography, which may (or may not) shock the examiners; the books I never read and just shoved in a footnote, which may or may not be glaringly obvious; the potential evidence of the last-minute patch-up job, which I may have a hard time explaining. The terrible, half-baked conclusion. One minute I was happy, the next I was sad; one minute I was telling a man at the gym proudly that I finished my PhD, the next I was nearly bursting into tears in my Pilates class. I didn’t want to go home. I had spent far too much time at home in the last few weeks as it was.
I thought about how I really should clear up the spare room. I went in there in the morning before swimming, saw it in the 8 a.m. morning light, and had a weird feeling; it looked like someone used to live in there and died in there; I was reminded of once going to help clear the flat of a (very close) deceased family member. The poignant, humane little heaps of papers, here and there, indicating a work in progress; someone had collected them, arranged them there, put them there deliberately, for a reason, someone had a plan for them; that someone was striving for something, was going somewhere with this; that person had a plan. All these carefully hoarded things would now be swept into a box and thrown away by uncomprehending, uncaring hands. Someone (or something) died in that room. ‘It still smells like him’, I remember an auntie saying. Something died in that spare room (my PhD? My PhD-writing self?) There is a half-eaten Mr Kipling tart (with a glacé cherry on top), which I started but didn’t have time to finish. Some rice on a plate (my unfinished dinner; it made a good midnight snack). Notes and books everywhere. I wish I had thought of booking some industrial cleaners to come in and blitz the whole flat. The last thing I feel like doing is cleaning, and the Boy, I think, is already feeling a bit put-upon, after the last few weeks.
‘Can I have my girlfriend back, please?’ he said to me the other day. ’I am basically LIVING with a PhD.’
I know. I’m sorry. But I’m back now, and I’m not going ANYWHERE.
Some things I have done since finishing my PhD, which were amazing:
- cooked dinner for myself and Lover while drinking a glass of red wine, followed by Champagne and a box of chocolates
- went out with a friend for tea and cheesecake, and then went out with friends for DRINKS
- SLEPT (and with the sleep of innocence and youth, the sleep of the happily unemployed; NOT the sleep of the last-week-of-PhD student, punctuated by wakeful periods spent fretting about footnotes; no; the fairytale sleep of a Sleeping Beauty, who will wake up in a hundred years and be very very happy)
- went to say goodbye to the therapist, and had a lovely last conversation, during which she said nice things, and asked me to email her and tell her how the viva goes
- received many texts, messages, and flowers (awww!)…
- stopped in the street to talk to a Red Cross charity fundraiser, and gave The Red Cross £5 a month (because I was there, I had time, I was happy, and I really wanted to)
- emailed the PDF of my thesis to nice people who like me (my Mum; a friend who encouraged me a lot in the last weeks; my supervisor)
- stocked up on Night Nurse and Vix and some vitamins (to combat the post-PhD flu)
- asked the Lover how you switch on our TV (I really didn’t know)
And you can guess where I am right now, and what I am doing.
...Have a nice day, everybody!....