Dr. Me, PhD: And with That, I’m Officially a Doctor

Last Tuesday, I woke up early, put on more makeup than usual, obsessed over my hair for a bit, went to campus in a cab with the ‘rents, donned a very-impressive robe, nervously waited around for a while, and was transformed from not-yet-officially-a-doctor to officially-truly-a-doctor in a tradition-filled ceremony attended by some of the people closest to me.

Marching to Convocation Hall. Not yet real doctors. Symbolic death will soon take place so that our real lives can begin.

I was happy, sure, after I successfully defended my thesis in March, but more than that, I was tired, both in the “I just did this big thing that I exhausted myself preparing for” way that I’d bet 99% of PhD candidates experience and in a “I had a horrible uptick in seizures in the weeks leading up to this that necessitated several emergency room visits and almost forced me to delay it” one that was, I suspect, particular to my situation. So while I celebrated at the time, it was a little anticlimactic, mostly because under my smiling exterior, what dominated was a feeling of relief that I had physically made it to the defence and that it was over.

I’ll admit that I was hoping that convocation would bring with it a greater sense of finality. It did. Weird as it may sound, it’s as if something significant has shifted now that I’ve marched across a stage, shaken hands with a few important people, had a new title bestowed upon me, and picked up a diploma, which I immediately had framed and now hangs proudly in our apartment on the wall of the corridor opposite the bathroom. That’s it: with a few ceremonial words and that piece of paper, I have a PhD. Can’t take it back. I’m a doctor.

The evening of the convocation, we partied it up new-doctor-style, whatever that means. After stressing out for a while trying to figure what the ideal way to mark the event might be, I settled, far in advance, of course, on a nice but lowish-key neighbourhood bar that my father frequents when he’s in town visiting me and my husband (my dad’s version of Cheers, more or less). The owner and employees were super friendly and accommodating and could provide a food package; the establishment has an extensive beer list; and they let us bring our own cake, which they cut and served for us, for no extra charge. Check, check, check. It was a great night, over the course of which I reflected several times on how lucky I am to have such supportive friends and family who made the effort to come out on a Tuesday when they probably had a backlog of stuff to watch on Netflix.

Amazing—and enormous—cake purchased by my husband from our favourite Italian bakery. ❤

And now for some special Convocation Week thanks!

First, to my husband, who did a great deal of organizing (and bought me a lovely bracelet—good work, baby);

Second, to my parents and to my sister-in-law and her partner, who flew to Toronto to spend this time with me—I’m so touched/happy that they did (and Mom, Dad: thanks for everything);

Third, to my supervisor, who I assume (hope?) doesn’t read my blog but deserves major accolades. He’s been incredible all the way through and was great on Convocation Day, participating in the academic procession and staying until almost the very end of the party.

And lastly, a catch-all “thank-you” to my network of friends and family for helping me reach this point and for celebrate it with me. They say it takes a village to raise a child. (That’s something “they” say, right?) Well, I’d say it takes a village to produce a newly minted PhD, especially one with multiple chronicle illnesses.

I might reflect further on how I feel about officially being a doctor in an upcoming post, but I’ve had a seizure-dense few days and am getting the impression that my prose is less than refined, so it might be best if I stop writing before I commit any further grammatical/stylistic atrocities.

But hey, at least I’m a doctor.


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