I was running on coffee and adrenalin the day of my graduation ceremony. I had flown to Melbourne and back the day before for an interview at Swinburne, and I was surviving on very little sleep.
I slipped on my gown as we walked through Victoria Park. The stately Quadrangle building loomed in the distance and I knew it wouldn’t be long before I would be ushered into the Great Hall.
I had my husband on one side, electric with excitement, and my friend, Lizette on the other. She had been a sympathetic ear ever since I began my PhD and moved in down the road from her four years prior. They are my family here in Sydney, and it felt right to have them with me, especially when my parents could not be.
The bells started to chime as we crossed the lake, and we hurried towards the venue.
As I sat in my seat and waited for the hall to fill, I reminisced back to four years ago when I graduated from my Bachelors. My choice to enrol in Commerce was more to do with pragmatism than passion, and I was left feeling disenfranchised throughout my undergraduate degree. When it was time to collect my certificate, I questioned whether or not I really earned it. My degree was more a default, than deliberate, pursuit, and it seemed as though I completed it by accident.
The exception to my general detachment was my Honours year, when research lit a fire in me. From the moment I submitted my Honours thesis, I plotted my return to do a PhD. When I returned to university, it was a conscious decision, and I savoured every moment of my doctoral degree. This time as I walked up to the dais and lifted my cap, I felt nothing but pure exuberance.
After the formal proceedings, we were joined by my supervisor and a few fellow PhD travellers for champagne on the jacaranda-lined lawn of the Quadrangle. My divinatory senses must have been tingling (I would receive some good news about my interview just a week later), because as I looked around the campus, everything seemed like it was in hazy, soft focus. I’ve had my encore and after this graduation, there would be no going back.
With the bitter nostalgia, also comes the sweet optimism of starting a new chapter in life. I’m choosing passion over pragmatism as I endeavour on the journey to Melbourne, and I intend to take every step of my academic career with purpose and deliberation.