Last November, I ‘convocated’…
Thesis written, defended, adjusted, uploaded, and received. Done, done, done, and done.
Four years prior, having been properly swept off my feet by this girl, I landed in Toronto and started a PhD. I’m not old, but I’m not young, so it was not the usual career path, going back to school, seeing your income go to ground and your savings erode, explaining to others why, to you at least, it made perfect sense.
The literature focuses primarily on labour outcomes, but I did not leave my job and do a PhD for labour outcomes. That works perhaps for younger people, for people who go through the steps without pause. But for me, and for most of those with whom I studied, most of them older, it wasn’t about that. Sure, now that I’m done and I’m moving back to the workplace, I am wondering about whether there will be outcomes, but I don’t really care that much. In fact, stopping for four years have taught me that I didn’t need a high salary. My wife and I (that girl who swept me off my feet) adjusted, and it was for the best. We understand better the value, the price, and the cost of decisions.
Back to the PhD: four years to nurture a project, to tweak ideas, to refine some, and abandon others, to put it all in a broader perspective, to ask at least ten times: what else is there, what else does it say about people, society, work? It was great.
Now that the dust has settled, a convocation feels anticlimactic. The drummer took too long a pause and the crowd is already applauding, getting up and putting their coats on when the final ‘Tsing-Boum’ marks the formal end. And yet it’s a big thing, perhaps more for the ones we love than for us. For an afternoon, we coexist on two planes. We wear ourselves under, but put on gowns tying us to tradition. We walk dressed like champions of free thinking, yet no one wonders why we need to put on such a show.
We are uniforms. We are stratification, for the gowns are not the same, and the brighter the plumage, the brighter the parrot, so it would seem, with the firstest among equals wearing even more attributes of their prowess and ambitions… Yes, as you may guess, I am not convinced, torn and unable to think highly of this. Yet, perhaps this is all for the students? To make them feel special? Or for their loved ones, who no doubt made sacrifices for this to happen? Or is it like television, which, as a French TV-Big-Whig once said, only serves to prepare the audience to receive commercials? I watch the development office deploy around the new alumni and wonder…
It’s all that and much more, but now my name is called and I must step forward. It does feel special.