I type this while lying on the grass in front of the New King’s building at the University of Aberdeen campus. My elbows are deep into the freshly cut grass, sunshine streaming through the leaves reflects on my phone’s screen and there’s a much-welcomed breeze that makes the day’s heat more tolerable.
Today marks 2 years since my PhD graduation at the University of Aberdeen. On this very day, 2 years ago, I wore the red gown, hold my tears back and walked on the graduation stage to hear my name before being awarded my degree. I haven’t gotten married but I’m pretty sure that’s how a wedding day must feel. Full of emotions and people staring at you all while wearing an outfit you don’t want to get off. Perhaps this is too vain of me to say but it’s universally acknowledged that once you wear this red gown, it’s impossible to not take pictures in front of every building that was part of your PhD journey. It’s the end of a major climax and while emotions run high all you keep telling yourself is ‘I ducking earned this I might as well enjoy it’.
I most certainly did.
Mum was somewhere in the crowd cheering for me while dad and my late grandpa were watching the graduation live on the University’s channel. I remember it took all of my emotional and physical strength NOT to cry when I walked past her while marching outside the building in a line of graduates. The live bagpipe music was making the atmosphere even more dramatic so I consciously chose to ignore her. Not turning my head to look into her eyes and acknowledge her presence, saved me a bunch of tears and up to this date, I have no regrets for doing so. Who wants a sobbing graduate after all? Later on, my friend Helena told me she captured my elated face on her phone and I’ll forever be grateful for her filming this short video.
Once it was all over, I met Mum and my friend Anthony (who was also graduating at the same time with me), outside the 15th-century building where the ceremony took place. After we made some short introductions (Mum- this is my friend Anthony. Anthony- meet mum!) we hugged each other and walked down the Elphinstone Hall arches telling each other ‘we did it! It’s over! I can’t believe it’s over!’. I bet these are the exact words every recovering PhD graduate spells once it’s all over.
Even though it’s been 2 years since that day and many things have happened during this time, it still feels like it was yesterday! Funny how the concept and perception of time changes during the most significant events of life.
As I look at those medieval buildings surrounding me – the same buildings I’ve experienced the highest and lowest emotions of my life – I can’t help it but question if the enormity of doing a PhD was worth it. A PhD can ruin your life in so many ways after all. Right now, nothing points towards the ‘worth it’ side of the value spectrum, but I’m hoping one day it will and I’ll make good use again of everything I’ve learned.
So, here’s to two years of being PhD stress-free and the better days ahead.