It seems to have been such a long time coming. Hard to remind myself that, with all the faults I can already see in my thesis. this is a huge achievement. There were times I didn't think I would ever finish writing my thesis, times I was ready to quit, there are times I did not believe I could complete. But I'm here. Compared to where I was in January 2012 - sitting on my bed in my room at my parents house where I was living to save money for a PhD, writing an application for funding, dreaming of being able to go back to University - the me from then would be over the moon at what I've done. The goalposts move as you go through and I'm trying to force myself to judge the achievement I have *right now* by the standards of 4 years ago.
Last night I went out with a large number of friends from uni, and with another PhD student who I share an office with and who submitted on the same day as me, for cocktails. It was a lovely evening and a really wonderful atmosphere. I had put a picture of my thesis acknowledgements page on Facebook and tagged a number of friends who were mentioned in it. A lot of people commented on and liked it, which was lovely, but on the way home from the pub at 1am last night, another PhD student told me that reading it (specifically, seeing that I had thanked David Bowie and Manic Street Preachers for contributing to my ambition, self-belief, and for inspiring me) had inspired him and reinvigorated his own sense of connection to various pop-cultural figures as something which matters. It was about the best compliment I could have. My little risk (I was anxious it was inappropriate to thank celebs/idols) to include those people in my acknowledgements paid off, in that it inspired someone else to celebrate their own sources of inspiration and talk about the 'low culture' of pop and rock in the high-culture world of academia.
My terms. That's what I feel like - I wrote my thesis and my acknowledgements on my terms.
Things are challenging with my family right now. My 99 year old Nan died 3 weeks ago - she was my Dad's Mum and had dementia which had got progressively worse over the last 3 years. In the end, she stopped eating and drinking and died within a week. It was sad but not unexpected. My Dad has taken it very badly - which is sort of inexplicable. His brothers and sisters have not been hard hit, she was very old and had had a long independent life (to 94) before she became unwell. My Dad has withdrawn and is not talking to my Mum or anyone else, really. The funeral was on Thursday and we expected that would move him on but it seems to have made him worse. I phoned him yesterday to share with him my delight at having just submitted my thesis. He said "oh?" and when I said "that's all you can say?" he asked me to repeat what I was saying, which I did. And then he said "yes?". I nearly burst into tears at his apathy and said "thanks a lot, bye" and hung up. He text me several hours later saying he had been waiting for a call from the bank to sort of my Nan's bank account and was not concentrating and...I don't care. This is the most important thing in my entire life. This is wonderful, happy, celebratory news. The world does not stop when you lose someone and the only way to get through it is to grab hold of good things when you can.
I spoke to my Mum today - he had not mentioned to her that I had called so I told her about the above. She said she is becoming increasingly angry and frustrated with him. He will not talk about how he is feeling, barely speaks at all, and when he does all he talks about is his Mum and his childhood and his brothers and sister. My Mum says she feels like he doesn't care about us (her, my brothers, me) anymore, she said "it's like none of us, none of this, matter to him".
My Mum (due to various reasons) had two Mums. Both of them died many years ago. Her Dad died when she was still a teenager. She has lost all her parents. She has been through this. And she was widowed when she was in her 20s. She knows what grief is like. And she will listen and help my Dad. But he seems to not want any of us and not be willing to look outside himself or accept that people die. And we all have to die eventually and 99 is an amazing age. My Mum asked him to remember how lucky he had been to have his Mum all this time (he's 71). He didn't respond.
I'm angry. And I'm sad that he can't even muster two words - "well done!" - for something so huge for me.
And I'm sad for my Mum, for her having to live with him when he's like this. She's angry and frustrated and worried there's something seriously wrong with him.
And, at the end of all this, I'm just tired and sad and feeling kind of empty now the thesis is gone and the viva is far off in the future - perhaps very far off depending on whether my external examiner is participating in the UCU industrial action - and I need to muster energy to apply for jobs and write some journal articles.
This isn't how I thought I would feel at the [almost] end of the PhD. Bit of an anti-climax.