Hello from Antigua! I’ve been here for the past two nights, meeting with a friend-of-a-friend and – FINALLY – completing and sending the manuscript of my thesis research off to the publisher. It’s not published yet, of course, but this feels like an extremely concrete step to finally sloughing off the responsibilities of my master’s degree. I have edited that manuscript from my desk at the University of British Columbia; from a snowbound cabin in Vermont; from a magical circus loft in Montreal; from a Marriott hotel in Tallahassee, FL; from the Proyecto Linguistico Quetzalteco in Xela; from the Luna de Miel cafe in Antigua; and from countless other places along the road. I’ll probably be in Nicaragua by the time the reviewers’ comments come in, so El Salvador and Honduras, at least, will be free of the plague of THESIS COMMITMENTS.
I’m not sure if I can properly express how relieving this is – the prospect of being freed from my thesis. My master’s degree was an arena in which I felt profoundly inadequate. For three years, I spent the greater part of every day feeling the foundations of my self-identity crumbling away: I was revealed as an idiot, as slow, lazy and undisciplined, unable to make the intuitive leaps or master the new materials that had proved so easy for me in high school and college. A great blurred wall separated me from comprehending the material that I so desperately wanted to understand. I procrastinated. I was consumed by self-loathing. Eventually I finished my thesis and graduated, but I still consider the whole masters degree mission to be a failed one.
Alas, and yet in return for my failure I learned many things I never planned on learning: how to travel through the wilderness of my depression and have compassion for those still inhabiting their own; how to value the parts of myself more essential than my ability to ace a standardized test; how to fail and yet carry on; how to trust my friends to know me and love me even when I am capable of neither.
Still, though. It’s nice to succeed at something. It’s nice to feel smart. And last week, for the first time in approximately 6 years, I did. Spanish school! Who knew?!
Hallelujah, and bring on the rest of Central America!
* Let’s be real, I also learned a lot about evolutionary biology, and I want to make a standard disclaimer that the UBC Zoology department was a fantastic place to be – I would never trade my three years for a different university or a different subject. “It’s not you, it’s me.” UBC Zoology is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, and the study of evolution has been infinitely rewarding to me. All problems originate with my own mind, and possibly also with the whole academic pyramid scheme, which, ask your nearest depressed graduate student… we are legion.
Graduation dinner, Proyecto Linguistico Quetzalteco