The relationship lasted nearly four years. I poured my all into it. It was what I centered my life around. The reason I got out of bed in the morning when it was going well, and also the reason I couldn’t face the world if I tried when it was going wrong. I knew the end was coming. I always knew. I walked on eggshells wondering when the day would come. I spent so many hours daydreaming about what I would do when I was no longer tied down, but I was still terrified for what it would take to get there. And now, here I am.
Please don’t pass the tissue. I’m not heartbroken. No, this was a different kind of relationship that has now come to a close.
I have officially finished my thesis.
It’s over! The writing, the review, the defense, the revisions, everything. The confetti has settled, my dress clothes are now back in the closet, and I have photocopied the page with no fewer than six faculty signatures about fourteen times just in case. I’m registered to walk across the stage in scholarly regalia in June. The defense went really well overall, and when I step back, I’m really, really proud of how far I have come with a tough project with many unforeseen pitfalls along the way. (To my American readers: in Canada, a Masters is not a failed PhD; rather, it is a step between a bachelor and a PhD – some people “roll over” from MSc to PhD, and others like myself wrap up the MSc project as a whole before moving on [or not]).
But I can’t help but feel like it’s a very weird breakup. The kind where it just sort of ends because it needs to, because there’s more out there, but you always know that it has changed you for the better (and maybe in one or two ways for the worse).
Like any breakup, the hardest part is in the shakeup to your day to day routine. For instance, I got into the habit of coming to the local Starbucks most Sunday afternoons to do work, whether it was reading papers, editing drafts, or grading undergraduate assignments for the courses I TA’ed. Sometimes, I would even run into my PI and we’d have completely impromptu but incredibly productive meetings over coffee, far away from the grind of the laboratory. It became such a habit that I’m sheepishly writing this post in that very Starbucks. After Friday and Saturday as my first two full days of not having a reason to be on campus at all, I cracked. Coming to this café is my equivalent of driving by an ex’s house. The territory is so familiar, I find myself here without even thinking. I could drive here with my eyes shut (don’t worry, I didn’t!). With my thesis out of the picture, I feel like I’m back on the market. Would anyone else know that adding a finishing date to my “education” listing on Facebook feels the same to me as changing the relationship status to single?
While my friends are posting updates about weddings and babies, I’m proud to announce my own milestone. I’m ready to take a chance on new opportunities. I’ve already started two new projects; one helping to organize a local community day to celebrate bees and other pollinators, the other volunteering in a wildlife rehabilitation clinic. The world is my oyster – and I’m planting the grain of sand myself to make the world cough up a pearl.
It may be the end of my complicated relationship with my thesis, but with the rest of the world? I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.