This is PhDgirl – I introduced you to her last year in a post about PhD fantasies. Last week she went to her graduation. This is a post about celebrating yourself – your mind, your perseverance, your drive and your overall fabulousness.
Graduation is, I think, something PhD students daydream about a great deal while they are going through the struggle of researching and writing their dissertations. Graduation is the end-point of this particular journey – the peak of the mountain where you stake your flag and claim your new title. Graduation is where you get to finally celebrate and be nothing but happy, and relieved and damn proud of yourself for what you have achieved through your own hard work, determination and perseverance. It’s a good day.
My university is wonderful because they do graduation with all the pomp and circumstance you could hope for. It was a grand graduation event, with official photographs beforehand, alumni packs handed out (where I got to fill in my first form as Dr NameandSurname), so many people to see and congratulate and be congratulated by. At the ceremony itself the Dean read out a citation about my research as I stood before the audience in my scarlet gown and new LBD, feeling like I was floating and praying I wouldn’t fall into the Chancellor’s lap when I knelt before him. Then the Chancellor – a really lovely man – conferred my degree and congratulated me as he shook my hand (I managed not to pitch into him, thankfully!). Finally, the Registrar invested me by placing my hood over my head and telling me ‘Well done, you can put on your bonnet now’. Then my part was over. Bonnet balanced precariously on my head, I took the wrong route back to my seat, forgetting to collect my parchment, and when I got the official pictures, I discovered that I had done all the things I was not supposed to do, like let my hair fall in front of my face and look down at my hood as it was being put onto me. But it was, nonetheless, a glorious and too-brief moment and I wished later on that I could do it all over again.
Of course there were other glorious moments – the Vice-Chancellor’s luncheon for PhD graduates and their partners and supervisors, where I found a placecard with my name preceded by Dr – the first official printed incarnation (I have kept it, of course); the garden party for all the graduates and their families, on a gorgeous warm afternoon where my children got to see me in my finery (they were not allowed to come to the ceremony) and eat cupcakes in the sunshine. It was a long, well-deserved and joyous celebration of all of us – myself and my peers – and this achievement we are so proud of. As a friend and fellow graduate said, ‘This [event] is all about being happy. Happy, happy, happy’. She was so very right.
I hope your graduation celebrations, when you get there, will be everything you have daydreamed about and so much more. Mine certainly were.