Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A tome all my own

The other day, while stopping by the two-story campus library annex dedicated to my Field 1 and another Field, when I met up with my friend who suggested I simply write to the textbook company to request a desk copy of the latest edition, I was informed (by said friend) that my bound dissertation had just arrived in the library, and could be found on the new books shelf.

I wandered upstairs, which houses the [Field 1] collection, stepped up to the shelf, and gazed with affection at the shelf, where its largest book, about the width of a standard ream of paper, black spine, with engraved letters announcing the title and [MyLastName] placidly lay. I sat a good half hour or so, thumbing through the pages of my book. No, it's not been published by a university press. I probably won't attempt to transform it directly into a real book. I've sent off my dissertation distillation article, and that will probably serve. I'm moving on, though I'm sure I will use pieces of that work in articles and possibly books in the future.

For now, it was simply a moment to gaze, in pride, in awe, in satisfaction. Yes, I actually like my little paper. It was the culmination of years of work. I hope to draw on it for more years than it took to produce. It was the final act in my move toward the PhD. It was something all my own, for which I wrote the conclusion.

I'm thinking about Professor Me's campus love letter. For most of the past 23 years I have measured time in semesters and quarters. The beginning of years has been August or September. June marked a hiatus of sorts (except the several times I took or taught summer classes). The university has been my home since 1983, when I first stepped foot on the campus of the City College of New York, as a freshman.

I laugh when I'm asked to provide all my transcripts, including undergraduate ones. After CCNY, I spent four years saving the world, then enrolled (then dropped, when I couldn't afford the out-of-state fees, since I had just moved to the state) in one course at a community college, while waiting to begin in the fall at [SmallEasternCollege]. After a year, I transferred to [Massive Midwestern University]. That marked my third tour as a freshman.

Four years later, I began a Master's program at [Top Southern Private University]. I mentioned in passing to the dean that I had not in fact graduated, to which I was told I needed to complete my bachelor's degree before the end of the year. So, I enrolled in an independent study course, wrote the term paper, and transferred the credits back to receive my undergraduate degree, with about 50% more credits than I really needed.

Two and a half years later, I received a Master's degree, then moved to [High City] to live with my soon-to-be wife. I performed, did odd jobs, and finally taught 6 terms at [Bomb Shelter Community College]. Then, ultimately, I returned to study for the PhD at [The University of Paradise]. Each school has bittersweet memories for me, some good, some bad.

Mostly, however, the university, the academy, is my home, my life, my love. I can't imagine life without a campus. But with such varied experience, I don't fear to find affection for wherever I wind up. They are to me like a box of crayons, a collection of hues and colors, each to be handled in turn.


Prof. Me said...

I can't wait to see my bound dissertation someday -- then it will all feel "real," when there's something tangible there on the shelf. I was flipping through one of my friend's dissertations today to see how he wrote his Acknowledgements (I'm listed! I didn't know that!) and I just beamed -- it was the representation of so much of his life while he was at Doctoral University, so many of his struggles. I hope someday a grad student will flip through my dissertation and feel that same way.

By the way, I think the final sentence of this post is simply lovely. Much lovelier than your "mind juices" of yesterday. Mind juices. Mind JUICES? AD, what were you thinking?! (Stomach turns again.)

ArticulateDad said...

PM, I'm trying to think of some apt metaphor about flowing colors... but I'll resist. ;)

BrightStar said...

"But with such varied experience, I don't fear to find affection for wherever I wind up."

I'm like this, too. With places and people. I'd like to think it means people like us are generally positive people and find good things in a variety of places.

How great to see the bound dissertation in the library! What a nice feeling!

Lilian said...

Neat post - both the part about finding your dissertation in the library (that must feel great!) and your feelings for the various schools... I wish I could say without qualms that "I can't imagine my life without a campus" (which is true for me as well, but I've been going through a dark phase regarding academic life).

Oh, and I wanted to let you know that I've added you to my blogroll.