Today I put the finishing touches on my final PhD thesis manuscript. Copying the 1.3 MB file onto a flash drive, I drove ten minutes down the road to Officeworks, ordered the print job and killed some time wandering through the aisles, picking out random pieces of stationery that I didn’t need or want.
When the job was complete, I looked at the printed-and-bound “tree edition” of the last three years’ work sitting idly on the counter. My first thought was, “wow – it’s rather thick.” My second thought was, “wow – did I do that?”
I suppose that it’s a feature of our digital lives that stuff we do often easily slots invisibly into the ether. I’m constantly writing reports, manuscripts, emails and all manner of things. Possibly due to over-typing, the dull pain that I had in the base of my left wrist ten years ago returned just the other day. With an academic career ahead of me, I’m spending less time in the classroom and more time in the office. I’ve also been quite the perfectionist throughout my PhD candidature, and it’s made me hold onto ideas more and share them less. I’ve been pushing the envelope and not taking much time to smell roses, let alone share my experience of the garden with those around me.
I’m hoping now it’s out of the way, I’ll get back a piece of my old self. In finding those past pieces of ourselves, I think it’s important we regularly take stock of what we do. Just forging on, working harder and finding the next “big thing” means we often lose sight of those important reference points that define who we are and reflect some of our contributions to the world.
So when I saw the printed copy of my thesis, the physicality what I’ve been doing these past three year hit me. It’s nice to just take a few breaths, say, “yep – I did that,” and take stock of it.