A little over a week ago now, I handed in my dissertation. ‘So what?’, I hear many of you cry, and that is indeed a fair thing to ask. Does it affect you in any way? No. Should you care at all? Again, no. Am I a little sad that you aren’t more excited for me? Well, maybe, but I understand why you feel that way.
For, at least, the last year, the subject of dissertations have been hot on the lips of friends, family, and colleagues. Have you chosen a topic? Have you started writing it? Is it acceptable to reference Kendrick Lamar? Ok, that last one was only relevant to me. My point is that it had become an all-consuming beast that dominated conversation and thought for the majority of my final year at university.
It was the Voldemort to my Harry. The Sauron to my Frodo. The eccentric theme park owner with an excess of bedsheets to my Scooby Doo. Always lurking in the background until eventually, emphatically, it had been defeated.
But that thrill and relief of ending it all has never come. As I stood on the precipice of Mount Doom (lay in my bed) and watched Gollum and the Ring slowly sink under the lava below (opened the email to say that my submission had been received), there was no feeling of triumph or sense of achievement.
I was empty and lost. Yes, there was an initial moment of euphoria to know that I hadn’t missed the deadline, but ultimately I was left unsatisfied. My greatest academic foe had been vanquished without the need to pull an all-nighter, without a frantic rush to submit it, or even a phone to my parents to say that this was all too hard. Admittedly, I did shave my head but I think that was more down to boredom than any great stress.
Now this is not a brag to say that I am some sort of academic god (I am not) who does not feel pressure (I do) and never calls his parents (I call them weekly). It is more a complaint of my restlessness that my dissertation was not more dramatic.
It’s meant to be the pinnacle of your university career, unless you choose to go further down the rabbit hole, and yet my life feels remarkably similar to two weeks ago when the deadline was looming. It all just felt a little too easy. The same as if Frodo had just swanned into Mordor, dropped the ring in Mount Doom, and then meandered back home in time for tea.
I guess I shouldn’t complain. Life will undoubtedly throw tougher challenges my way than writing 12,000 coherent words about the civil rights movement, and so I should enjoy this carefree existence while I can.
No doubt I’ll be crying out for it in a few months’ time when council tax bills are flying through the letterbox, I’m up to my elbows in job applications, and I’ve just spent the last of my savings on a replacement lightbulb.
But in the meantime, let me moan. I did just finish my dissertation after all…
Image courtesy of Stewart Butterfield (flickr)