End of Days

It's 6pm and everybody has gone home. I am sipping my last coffee as a graduate student. I had always looked forward to the day when I would finally be able to say 'I'm done with this crap'. Sometimes, it looked like that day would never come. It always seemed a goal that was too impossible, too far, somewhere in the distance, a year or two away. Now it's finally here, it's not what I had expected to feel.

Today everyone, including my advisor, told me to go home early and get some sleep. Actually, for the first time in my life I genuinely want to stay here. Not because there is work to be done, but I just want to enjoy the last evening here at my desk - alone. I see piles of old papers that are all marked up and with coffee stains, old lab notebooks with failed experiments and incorrect analyses. They make feel that was time well-spent. My finished papers, in comparison, look too clean.

Tomorrow, in about 45 minutes I am supposed to wrap six years of work. They want the cream. I shall present three of my greatest hits, and if that's a hit with the committee, they are going award me a PhD.

My personal experience makes me compare doing a PhD to running a marathon. You have to be slightly mad to think of doing one, and a little more so to finish one. Just as the marathon is not a test of speed, but of stamina, a PhD is not a test of quick intelligence, but of rigor and intellectual determination. For the most part, you hang in there and keep going, and not be afraid of falling down or going down blind alleys.

I recall Chicago. After many miles, I finally rounded the bend on Columbus Drive and saw the finish, less than 400 meters away. Suddenly, all the weariness of those miles disappeared seeing that green banner with large, friendly letters reading, 'FINISH'. It was nice to get that medal around my chest once I crossed. That will always remain. And looking back, what I really enjoyed was running all those miles in the different neighbourhoods. Today, it's that same sort of feeling of seeing the finish line, one that you dreamed about for a few years. Yes, I look forward to crossing the line tomorrow, but tonight I want to sit here and look back.


Ashutosh said...

Once again, compliments and congratulations. I can imagine that feeling and now, reading your description, am feeling nostalgic for it even before letting it sink in in a few weeks. Savor it before it disappears.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations and Good Luck!

Anonymous said...

Great going ghats....

It must feel fantastic. These moments are what life is really all about so enjoy it. There is no pleasure like the fruits of a hard earned success.

Well so I suppose after this your thoughts will turn to home and parents. So when will you be in Pune?


Anonymous said...

Congratulations on the defense! Fascinating description! And you write so well.. Thank you for sharing the inspiration. It was a pleasure reading your message.

-mountain bear

Abhishek said...

congratulations! not often do we see people proving that there is in fact a light at the end of the tunnel ;)

Corina said...

Congrats, Hirak!!!! I am so happy for you, and trust me, I know exactly how it feels; turns out I defended (successfully) my dissertation only a few days before you. That calls for a reciprocating drink at the next meeting! :))) Hope all is well with you, would you consider moving somewhere else for the next step or call Michigan home for longer?

Please stay in touch and wish you all the best,