It’s already been two weeks since the Ph.D. viva. And yes, I’m a doctor now, even awarded with the cum laude distinction. So yay! for me. But this isn’t a post about celebrations. Quite the opposite, actually.
Since I finished the Ph.D., dozens of people have congratulated me: family, friends, work colleagues and so on. Most of them have praised my perseverance and the fact that I was able to complete the thesis despite having a full-time job and a newborn baby. They have told me that it is praiseworthy that I was able to balance all three things (even though the thesis stretched to more than 6 years in the end). But if that’s the case… Why is that I don’t feel proud at all?
There is one thing that everyone seems to have missed: There are only 24 hours in a day. It doesn’t matter how well you plan your activities, there is a limited number of things you can achieve in a single day. So at some point you have to sacrifice some activities in favor of others. And I have completed my Ph.D. thesis, so… Where did that time come from? As a matter of fact, from sleep (I spent the last ~6 months waking up at 5 AM to work on the Ph.D. before I went to the office) and, more importantly, from my family. All those months where I should have been preparing the house for the arrival of my first daughter? I spent them double-timing on the thesis, hoping to complete it before she was born (which I didn’t). The first year of life of my little girl? I was too sleep-deprived to really enjoy the time with her. It’s been nearly two years since I knew I was going to be a father. Two years that will not come back, and that I feel I have missed because of me focusing on finishing the thesis.
Now I just need to leave all of that behind. As time starts to put things into perspective, my feelings about the thesis are not happiness and pride. Instead, I regret my decision of putting the work of completing it before my family. And I feel deeply guilty about it. I don’t want anyone else congratulating me for balancing everything, because I didn’t. And those congratulations are nothing but reminders of that fact. Today, I just need to give it closure and move on.
Thank you everyone who congratulated me on completing my thesis. I know you did it with the best of intentions at heart. But it is already a thing of the past, and there is where it must remain.