Today, I finished off the decade by picking up the bound copies of my PhD thesis. The university library doesn’t collect hard copies any longer, only electronic files. I hope their server is backed up well; I bet it’s not fail-safe. I’m glad to have something to hold at the end.
The university was deserted, the library closing at noon. I cleared out my desk, books and journals I gathered early in my candidature I still haven’t read and now I never will. Too much paper, print outs of old chapters. My house is full of children now, so I didn’t keep much. See, I’m not different to the university library.
I contemplated not going to my graduation ceremony, because I find ceremonies hard to sit through. But I did go, on a hot December day, and I’m glad I did. My wife was there and my dad and one of my supervisors. It’s only this late in life that I accept that ceremonies are necessary to mark our life as we go.
I should simply celebrate the occasion, but instead I was disappointed with the valedictorian speech. It seemed typical of the year, the decade, the crisis in Australia – platitudes about the arts and no truth-telling about the crisis in the arts, the crisis in the university, the crisis in our world. It came after a guest speaker who worked for BP. Perhaps unfairly, I imagine the university deciding it would show those arts graduates how far their degrees could take them, even into the ‘real world’ of the fossil fuel industry.
When I started my Master’s degree at the university in 2009, I already had an ambivalence. I was going to appreciate the good, use the opportunity to write a novel with support, and not expect more than I was likely to get. I went full time for my PhD, and I tried to be whole-hearted. I think I was, because you can be whole-hearted and still alert to the problems in every institution and every endeavour.
I started this post to tell you about the good news for my biography, not just the PhD complete but a couple of publications as well. The decade has finished well for me. But I’ve run out of time, I’ve got to pick the children up. More later.