Thursday, 7 November 2013

a pass

David & I met ten years ago in a Latin class at the University of Victoria. Back in the day we sketched vague pipe dreams about driving around Canada in a converted van or bus, picking up work as we needed it and living the simple life, just enjoying experiences and travel and not having to settle down. Then, towards the end of our degrees, professors started encouraging us to apply to graduate schools. This started us on a path that led first to the University of Alberta, then the University of Toronto, and finally to the University of Cambridge. We’ve been walking the Grad School Road together since 2006.

Surrounded by his sea of books in Edmonton
It has not been easy. People who think that the academic path is some sort of charmed life, protected from harsh reality, know nothing. There have been times when we haven’t had more than $20 between us, or times when we’ve wondered if it would’ve just made more sense to stay home and get steady jobs and settle down. A PhD dictates your whole life. It’s a long time commitment, and we lucked out because at Cambridge it’s the same length as a Canadian undergraduate degree (4-ish years), whereas back home it would’ve meant 5 or 6 years. Every decision has to be weighed in the balance of the dissertation submission deadline. The back of your mind always knows that the clock is ticking. It intrudes on vacations, on weekends, even on evenings. It affects the whole family, not just the person undertaking the actual degree, and we have all had our roles to play & our sacrifices to make.

Quite the Gentleman Scholar in Toronto
But, inch by inch, we’ve journeyed towards the light at the end of the tunnel. And one day, not too long ago, I mentioned that Thesis Madness was over. The dissertation was submitted. Of course that wasn’t the end of the story – submission meant that it was completed on time. The next step was the defense, or in Cambridge terms, the viva voce.

Wearing Cambridge robes & enjoying a glass of whiskey in the Clare MCR
On November 5th the kids & I killed several hours in a chill & damp Cambridge, while David went and defended the past few years’ work. I admit I was a rather distracted mommy that day, my eye constantly on the clock, my ears straining to hear my phone ring. It’s one of those situations where you have absolute faith in someone’s ability but still worry that things could go wrong. And then, thanks be to God, when the phone finally does ring you get the best news of all – a pass.

Thesis Submission!
 When we met in 2003 I never would have thought that I’d be married to a Cambridge doctor. And if you’d told me that we’d spend the evening of November 5th, 2013, taking our two children into a fenland park to set off firecrackers, and then coming home to drink two celebratory bottles of cava, I probably would’ve laughed. But we did it. We did it, because David did it. Because my wonderful genius of a husband passed his viva and has been recommended for a doctorate degree from the University of Cambridge.

Do you even need to guess how proud I am of him?

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