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PhD closure

Last week I attended my convocation at the University of Toronto. It was a long and fairly boring ceremony, but I think I needed it: finishing a doctorate is one of the most anticlimactic events there are, considering the effort it takes to do it! I think the problem is that there are too many “almost there” points, or at least there were in my case:

  • You finish a decent draft of your thesis, but you realize there’s still lots of rough edges to polish. Okay!
  • You hand in your “final draft” to your committee. You’re proud of it. Yay! But you can’t celebrate yet: you need to prepare for the exam.
  • You pass the exam! But now you have a list of changes to make to your thesis, and you better do them quickly if you’re pressed for time (as I was) and if the scheduling window of the external or Senate defense is narrow (as mine was).
  • You hand in your thesis with the changes your committee requested. It took you a while, mainly because the thought of editing the Thing is dreadful. Never mind, though, it’s done. Yay again! But of course you still can’t celebrate: you need to prepare for the external defense (and for the snake fight).
  • You pass the defense! Woo hoo! You’re unofficially a Doctor now! Everyone calls you that. Except you still have a significant list of corrections for That Blasted Document you call your thesis.
  • In the solitude of your desk, you drag yourself to make those final changes. At some point in the middle of the night, you send it to your advisor; then you crawl to bed.
  • Hours or days later you get an email: your advisor accepted the changes. You upload the final version to the University’s database. A day later you get back an email saying that your upload failed because you didn’t name your PDF file quite the right way. You fix the filename and resubmit. You’re done.

And that’s it! “Not with a bang, but a whimper.” So after all, after so many false endings, I felt as if I wasn’t quite there yet. I would go to work every day as a “postdoctorate fellow,” which implies I’m done with school, yet except for a few moments I would slip back to that student frame of mind, with the sole difference that I wouldn’t have a thesis to write anymore.

At my convocationSo we flew to Toronto, where I met again with plenty of friends (but my time was tight, and I didn’t see or chat with many that I wanted to!), wore fancy clothes, attended convocation, briefly shook hands with the bigwigs present at the ceremony, and came back to Victoria with a framed piece of paper that says I’m done. It’s too early to say if it truly worked in giving me closure, but I’m glad I did it.

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