My deadline has come and gone. Approximately 50 000 words have been wrapped, packaged and shipped off to strangers. It is my most fervent hope that they will cast kind eyes upon it, but I am faced with a more pressing problem now that my Master’s thesis is done: what now?
The problem with things that don’t have a definitive ending, things which require a multitude of tiny, heart-wrenching endings in order to get done, is the palpable lack of closure. There’s no moving on yet because things are just not quite done.
The first small and agonising ending was my departure from Grahamstown, which happened in a rush of cleaning, packing, tears, and regrets. I had just submitted a final draft to my supervisor about two days before we had to move out of our little flat, so everything happened in a sort of barrel roll that only stopped with me in a car, thinking about an empty flat and wondering just when it stopped being ours.
How does one handle a sudden end-stop to your life? I don’t quite remember what I did between the end of November and departing on holiday with my family. I read, I’m sure. I watched television. I ate. I imagine I mourned. I don’t think I’m done mourning, but there were other things to think about.
The next small ending was my final edit, which was possibly the most difficult and frustrating step since writing my first chapter. Once again, that first chapter came to bite me in the ass. Repetition, repetition, repetition. The nuances were too nuanced. The structure was too complicated. The headings confused. I had to simplify, simplify, simplify. The amount of times I threw up my hands and stormed away from my laptop probably made my parents wonder whether academia broke me. It probably did, just a little bit.
And then there was the sending away. I had three copies printed, bound, packaged and shipped, rather unceremoniously. I sat at the counter and agonised while others came and went (three times 130 pages, three times punching, three times binding, all add up to quite a while’s waiting). The magnitude of this process didn’t reach other people in the shop. It belonged to me only. Because my boyfriend had to be in the Cape, I celebrated alone, with cake.
And still it’s not done. Now the thesis has been sent to those strangers, and I’m waiting to hear whether I passed, passed well or failed. Possibly, or likely, I’ll have to do more work on it before I’m allowed to graduate. Only then will it be over.
In the meantime, I have to find other things to do. We toured a bit of South Africa in December – a tiny bit of the West Coast (pictures pending). I came to Cape Town for a month, waiting to go to The Netherlands for three months. I need to find a way to earn money while travelling, and then earn money while travelling.
Because that’s what I am for the time being – a traveller. Our flat stands empty. My belongings are in boxes. We live out of suitcases and foreign closets and look after other people’s cats (which, admittedly, is terrific). Only half of the year is planned out. The rest is up to chance.
I am student no longer. Bring me that horizon.