As of Thursday, August 19th, I officially handed in my dissertation. A little before noon, I picked up the two copies as specified by the university: forest green tape for binding, a washed out shade of emerald for the cover, and hastily impressed gold lettering spelling out my name, the year, and my degree. Handing in these 72 pages--almost five months of work when you factor in the planning--felt at once unceremonious and joyful. Meeting coursemates at a local pub for lunch, we joked that they should have given us a ribbon or sash when we delivered it to the grad office. Somehow signing your name in ballpoint pen doesn't quite have the pomp and circumstance one would hope for in such an event.
The days preceding the event were largely drowned in a river of Pepsi Max, pre-packaged sandwich meal deals, and a veritable cornucopia of sweets. I fear a the next time I go to the dentist, he'll examine my mouth only to find myriad greyish-brown caverns in what was once a healthy mouth. I have started flossing to compensate. Long days in the computer lab turned to long nights in front of my MacBook, fruitlessly searching for the perfect word or turn of phrase.
In the end? I'm not thrilled with it. But I suppose that's the nature of the beast. Once it's all over, all you can do is see the flaws, the areas to be improved, the times you should have stayed in to work. Yet, it's done. There's no more work I can put into it. No more graphs or charts. Not one more reference. And it feels good. It may not be my best piece of work, but its the culmination of a year of change.
I finished reading Pillars of the Earth the day after I handed in my dissertation. I'd been reading the book all summer, using it as a form of escape after long nights of work. What I realized was, as they were building their cathedral in the story, I was building mine. I faced setbacks, design errors, and flaws in construction. But I also had (short-lived) flashes of brilliance and delight in the knowledge that my project, bound as it was in its cloak of green, will stand as a testament to the things I've learned over the past year.
Now, it's time to move on to a new chapter in my life: a new job. I'll spend the next month largely looking in the UK. But once my lease is up, if I don't have any leads, I'm going to move back to the U.S., probably to settle in New York. Then again, it may all change tomorrow. Who knows...
*If you have some strange desire to actually read my dissertation, it can be found on my website: http://www.stephenanemeth.com under the "Portfolio" tab.