Academia, it's been real

Saturday, June 10, 2017

I've done quite a few things in life, that may qualify as 'things you should not attempt if you're a sane adult'. The research degree in cinema is one of them. It may have hit home several times in the last two years but never more than this morning when I woke up.

You see, I'm your late riser. No power on Earth can wake me up unless my arse is on fire and my phone's given up on snooze, or I'm dying without electricity in Summer.
When I woke up at 7:30 am without an alarm this morning, I knew something was up.

From the very moment, some 24 hours ago when it hit me that this is it, the judgement day is here, I've been unsettled. I'm hyperventilating, without as much as a word. I'm stressed to the point I can feel the pulse in my body, I can feel my head hurt, I can feel the palpitations. You'd wonder why, even ask what's the point. I did what I could have and it's over. It's just feedback now. But that's the point, that is when you look back and forget to take into account the endless nights you've spent crying, the decision to pick your book over a boy, swearing on everything holy that you'd never see his face again. I've lost relationships, friends, job offers, freelance work. All for that one piece of paper telling me I can do this- and I've done this.

A dear friend sent this day before my MPhil entrance which I'd fully planned to skip because it was too hot and I was so sure I wouldn't make it. I go back to this mail, whenever I'm down. Completely unconvinced though. I revisited this today with a tad more confidence. 

When I woke up this morning, it felt like a terrible loss. A trade off I wouldn't do today. You see, I'm one of you now. I care about the money that reaches my bank, however little it may be. I care about wanting to sustain relationships, to work on myself- to be healthy and to treat my body with respect. Pretty much whatever I've stood at odds with all these years. The only thing I ever wanted is to do good. To make something good. To put my energies into creating anything-something, which I know I gave my best. At the end of my thesis writing, I knew it didn't work the way I'd conceived for it to be. I just had to face it, the blow and the reality check today. How hard could that be?

It's a strange experience to be so terrified that you don't know how to respond. Like your nerves, all curled up and just pumping blood so you can breathe and stand and listen. I can tell you, this comes close to standing outside ICU and waiting to hear terrible, terrible news. You're just waiting for it to hit you. That lasted for a whole day. Last I felt this, there was a death in the family and I was too young to process these feelings.

"You can come inside."

I walked in, blank. A room full of familiar faces all smiling at me. I'd spent an entire day sitting in this room, even speaking and having everyone listen to me. Yet, it seemed completely unfamiliar when I stepped in to hear my grade. My advisor patted my back and said,

"Congratulations, you've done well. It's an A."

The validation I was looking for, for all these years came in one sentence.

"You should immediately go and publish your third chapter. It's great work."

Just like that, everything I gave up to be who I am today, was absolutely worth it.

Academia and I, we've had a long, strange run. In the end, despite all the problems, I'd change nothing at all. I think that's what matters the most, how you end it. Ofcourse, easy to say now that I'm here. As a hypocrite ignoring my depression, I'll stand by my statement.

It's not quite settling in, the feedback, the end and even the journey. Three years ago, today, I was in a nightclub at Pattaya brimming with joy about the job which I was about to join. If someone had told me that I'd go down to get this feedback on my research degree from some of the top academics in the country, I'd have laughed at their face and returned to my hotel room to sleep.

I don't know what, how or when I'm doing next. In my head, I now deserve a break. However, those thumbs are twiddling for their next misadventure. A trip to undertake, work to publish, books to be made, events to be curated- I can't sit and let things sink in like other normal people.

I envy them for this. For their ability to take time off and enjoy things.

Meanwhile, I'm onto other bad decisions. Some of which look like this-

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