I defended my thesis on August 25, 2017, in Victoria. My defense happened in a bland classroom, with my friends and family present while my thesis supervisor, my co-supervisor, and my external examiner asked me questions varying from fun to dreadfully difficult.
But I DID IT! I defended my thesis!
18+ months of research, writing, editing, tears, questions, failings, and early mornings in coffee shops trying to tap into my best historian.
Getting an M.A. was not easy. The last two years I was lonelier, more anxious, more stressed, and more unsure of myself than I have ever been. My degree was full of welcoming, warm people that I still struggled to connect with. I had mental health issues that required therapy, long walks, and acceptance of the situation at hand.
One of the most darkly hilarious moments occurred in my first semester. I was living alone in a wicked apartment, but couldn’t find a reason to leave it. One day, after emerging outside after three days cooped in, I realized that I had no friends in town and that the only way anybody would know I had died would be only after my body began to stink up the building. Shit, I thought, it’s time to make some fucking friends.
I wasn’t dating Logan yet when I began my degree, but he came to be a huge influence on keeping my head above water, as we both experienced our own struggles and cheered each other on. I also spent hours by the ocean and in the Ross Bay Cemetery, lingering in quiet places where the world continued to go on without me. This might seem scary to some, but I found the rhythm of natural things comforting. It wasn’t necessary for me to read the whole 400 page book I was assigned in a week to still see the leaves change, to smell the rainy mornings, to hold a cup of hot coffee and appreciate it. I learned how to temper the pressure of the degree, with it’s vicious pace and difficult, open-ended questions, with my own pace.
Perhaps the most important thing I learned, apart from how to write, edit, research, and be a more thorough historian, was how to be alone and utterly at peace with my solo existence. I loved being alone, as it allowed me a certain degree of anonymity. I could sit with a book at a cafe and hear the grizzled old dudes at the table next to me make fun of Trump, or go on a long walk and pet dogs as they came up to me in the dog park. I wasn’t anybody important and I wasn’t threatening. I could merely be. That was honestly the best.
Now, I am back in Missoula, surrounded by smoke from the wildfires and looking for work. But, I can do it knowing I have accomplished something that was terrifying, challenging, and exhilarating! It feels so good.