On Friday, I successfully defended my doctoral dissertation. So, it’s done. I still need to print out copies for the library, which will be an elaborate process. And I still need to fill out a few forms. But all the hard work is over.
After the defense, after everyone had shaken my hand and said “Congratulations, Dr. Goss,” I walked along the grassy strip behind the College of Arts and Sciences. It has a view of the river. There was a sort of mist in the air, falling – not rain exactly. But it was wet. I walked over the wet grass, looking at the river, feeling a curious blankness. For the last decade of my life, I have either been working on the dissertation or worried about not working on the dissertation (when I took time off, I mean).
And now, it’s over. I feel as though the rest of my life is in front of me, and I have no idea what it’s going to be like. I suppose it’s up to me to create, at least partly.
On Saturday, I went to Concord and bought myself two things. The first is a green transferware pitcher with pink flowers. Here is it on my desk, with clustered roses in it:
And I bought myself a book called How to Know the Wild Flowers, by Mrs. William Starr Dana, published in 1899.
I thought they were good presents to myself, for successfully defending.
I do have some projects I need to work on. I’ve promised a short story to an editor. I have a poetry collection to compile. But I still feel curiously blank. I wonder if I will feel like that for a while. I’d like to have a sense of joy and purpose again. I’m not entirely sure where they’ll come from. Perhaps they’ll return by themselves?
It does feel good, at least, to post here again. I couldn’t post for a while before the defense – I just didn’t have the concentration. Perhaps that will return too.
I think what’s happened is that I’ve gone through a liminal process. I’ve crossed a boundary and become something different from what I used to be. And now I’m not sure yet who I am. This is different from having finished the J.D. or M.A. Neither of those degrees were like this one. Perhaps part of the reason is that I’m now done with school. I will never be a student again. Even as I was graduating from law school, I knew I would be going back, pursuing a degree in English literature. Now, I can’t imagine a reason I would go back for another degree. I’m done. And it’s time to get to work, but I’m not sure who I am yet. And so, I’m not sure what work I need to do. (Writing, of course. But writing what? You see, it’s not so simple.)
It may take me a while to find out.