With hands that trembled a bit, I hit "print" and sent my thesis, which my advisers have assured me is not my magnum opus, to the printer. Eighty-five pages shot out of the machine in rapid succession.
Again, my hands trembled a little as I gathered them up, stacked them neatly together, felt the satisfying heft of them and tucked them safely away in a manila folder.
I had promised myself I'd finish this draft, this penultimate draft, by 2010. I doubted myself; I thought I would fail as I've failed so many things lately.
But with only this single thing on my agenda, I managed to do it.
All semester, I have been doing too many things. Any single one of these things I could have done with admirable flair, but all of them at once and frankly, I was just lucky not to fail spectacularly.
But just after 8 p.m. on New Year's Eve, I was done. A whole night stretched ahead to celebrate, but all I wanted to do was rest my mind.
I am so bloody tired.
Who Will Read It?
It's hard to work on a thing that no one will ever read. It's hard to maintain your commitment with that realization by your side.
Some friends have asked me what it's about; one good friend, accustomed to academia, has offered to read it and give me feedback.
Many people don't even know what it is, what the big deal is. I confess I never really understood until now.
Who will read this thing I have created? My advising committee, and that's it.
It will be bound in green, labeled, then set to join the others on the shelf in the English Department office. There dust will collect on its surfaces, spiders nest in its crevices, and harried grad students of the future might choose it to look at vaguely for clues about what is expected of them.
The Unfolding Process
The product isn't that important, as it turns out -- important as defined by me and my views of what my own education has been about. Instead, it is the process that mattered.
Indeed, in some ways, it is a magnum opus, because writing it caused me to distill my thoughts and gather the resources I need to back up my own teaching philosophies with good, solid evidence.
It's not my best writing. It doesn't carry the reader along as I want my writing to do. This is the third piece of writing I've done that has had this effect, the effect of making me take a good look at something I've done, put it into perspective and make sense out of it.
One was the cover letter in my senior portfolio. The second was the entrance essay I wrote to get into graduate school. And now, my thesis. Pains in the ass, all, but powerful, powerful assignments, effective tasks that I strongly believe in.
It's hard to articulate what goes on in academia, particularly in grad school. How it opens you like a flower that never stops blooming, makes you shed your old, ill-fitting skin like a snake, over and over. Wakes up your mind like a night city coming to life.
I've heard people say we jump through hoops so we can get a piece of paper, the diploma. It is enough to make you cry to think that someone could go through the process of their own education and somehow manage to avoid being educated.
It is like saying the whole wild ride and witch's brew of marriage is about a gold ring. It's like saying life is about death. Ridiculous.
So, here I am at the crossroads, wondering what will happen next.
I'm tired of school. I hope I never have to climb the stairs to Founders Hall again. Hope I never have to curse HSU as I search for parking or snatch a telltale green parking ticket off my windshield.
And yet. And yet.