Submitting my thesis - at the end of one journey and the beginning of another

Submitting my thesis - at the end of one journey and the beginning of another
published: (updated: )
by Harshvardhan J. Pandit
academia blog personal

To have been walking a long time,
The body is exhausted.
To stop and take a sip of water,
To find hay and make a bed.
But no matter how weary,
The passion has to be fed.
The traveller has to journey,
To keep on walking ahead..

I came to Ireland on the 16th of December. I remember it being cold, very very cold! There were high winds and the temperature was exactly at zero. The next few days went in adjusting myself to the weather and the new routine, and a visit to UCC’s Western Gateway Building where I spent the next one year of my life. I remember being clueless at the start. I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do, something about sharing data between applications on a smartphone. I had no clue how I was going to do it, or even what was possible. Such, as I have come to realize, is the start of every research.

There came times when I thought I was going to lose it, I had no idea how I was going to move forward. Then there were some days when I felt almost invincible, like I was doing something extraordinary. The truth of what I did probably lay somewhere in between. It was a great year, and when I look back, I realize that I actually managed to do quite a decent amount of work. Am I satisfied with it? Absolutely not, I still wish that I had more time and had known things before and had done everything in a better sort of a way. But this just means that I finished some work, for if I hadn’t, I would have been having some very different thoughts.

It was only when I wrote my thesis, the entirety of it, that I realized just what and how much I had done. The process made me go over every little detail of what my academic year was like. Flashes of little moments, of thoughts and decisions that were made come and go over my eyes as I read my own work. It’s not nostalgia, but a realization. When I handed over the copy of the thesis, somewhere inside me I felt the pressure of a period being written at the end of a sentence. How much I had longed for this tiny punctuation!

I had resisted an incredible amount of attempts in December, and more so in January, of thinking and doing things other than the writing of my thesis. I was eager to write about the new things I want to do and try in 2015. About the places I want to visit. The foods I want to savor. The friends I want to make and meet. All of it had been put on hold. When I handed in that thesis, I had expected this dam to burst, with the thoughts to have come flooding in. But the only thing I felt was an eery silence. The surroundings around me reveled in my thoughts, but I could not understand why. This is also why I am writing this today, on the 9th of December, and not on the 8th when I handed in my thesis.

I remember those days in school, when I used to rush to complete the last exam, and spend the last 15 minutes or so daydreaming about what I was going to do in the holidays. This time, there was no exam. But I still had the same feeling of wanting to simply sit and dream. It took me a while to realize that what I was feeling, now as well as back then, is the feeling of being free from something. I no longer had to think about my research, about writing my thesis, about meeting and reporting and making sure I follow up on things. It’s like a room that has most of its furniture removed. It’s bare. And all you think of is what stuff should I put in there.

There are some things I want to do, not just because I have finished a part of my education, but because it excites me to want to do it. Like photography – I really feel tensed to do it because I get caught up in it too easily. So far, it has been excused because of my work and research, but now that I have the time, I can focus on it, and enjoy it leisurely. Then there is my website, my blog. I plan to write a lot more. Poems, short stories, articles, and even something new that I haven’t tried before. For my future, I am looking at the various avenues I have for doing a PhD. And maybe a job by the side. But I really want to enjoy my own indulgences for a month or two.

UCC gives this nice little chocolate upon submitting one’s thesis. It feels really nice, and makes for a great memento! Receiving this reminded me of the the various bills, stubs and tickets I have collected over the past year. Each one of them has a moment, a memory, and a part of my life attached with them. I had a journal once, where I pasted things like this and wrote down little anecdotes about them. Ever since I stopped writing, I haven’t really had a continuos episode of journalling.

When the new year started, I thought of an interesting way to journal my life. It is called Project 365, where I took a photo of the deciding and memorable moment of the day that would define what I want to remember from the day. And when I searched for something related to it online, I found a website with a similar name, where people post photos taken on each day of their life to create a journal for an entire year. What I want to do is, take a picture of what I think is something worth remembering, or something that tells me how I spent that day, and then put the photo in a digital notebook of sorts, and write about it. I can have as many pictures of a day I want, but at least one for every day. I use Day One, because it’s a really nice looking app, and available on both my mac and iPad. I take photos with my phone, with an iPad, sometimes using images found on the internet. For the days that I was writing my thesis, I have a picture of my desk, with my tea cup, macbook, pencils and everything littered around exactly as I was working.

In the eight days that I have followed this journalling style, I’ve found it to be immensely rewarding. It creates a habit of taking a picture of something you want to remember, and then writing about it later on. It’s easy to do, because one can just snap a picture with their phone, and rewarding, because I can just “browse” through my previous week or month. Sometimes I take screenshots of conversations I have with people, because they are important, or something worth remembering by. And also, by having a picture, I can write about it two days later, based on the memories I have associated with the picture. It’s a fun idea and something I think will cultivate into a habit for me.

Apart from all of these, I also realize that this is the first time in my life, where I have a choice of the things I want to do, with no decisive answer. All through school, and then college, and then doing my masters research, I was sure that I wanted to do something next. Now I am not. There are opportunities everywhere that I want to take up on. PhD, Jobs, Travel, and so many things. I’m waiting for the results of an interview I had, and also working on my PhD application. I know that I’m walking on a path that will eventually fork to go to many different places, but I don’t know when I will reach that junction, or which road will I follow. All I know now is that I’m on a journey right now, just walking ahead.