On the day I got the information that I had passed my Master’s thesis I made hubby stop the car and I burst into tears. The day I saw it published in book form I held it to my heart and cried. I just kept saying “its a book, its my book”. While very true emotions at the time these were like the superficial appearance of passing my thesis. What was underneath is what has me in part dreading and sad for my graduation in two days. I wanted to graduate with a sense of accomplishment. I literally bled for my thesis. This is what happened and how, today, I had a new realisation that will change my graduation on Friday to something I never expected.
I hold a degree in Nursing, I am so proud of that degree but notice I don’t mention my registration. I do not believe that I will ever nurse again which while not fully a part of this graduation it is one of the impacting features. I fell into Media studies by accident. I was doing English and mediocre describes my passing grades and my level of engagement. When I took a media studies class as a filler, I didn’t really expect anything. What I got was full engagement with the content and the subject. I love media studies.
So I completed a Graduate Diploma in Media Studies with Distinction, which means I never dropped below an A minus throughout. What was more important is I fell in love and I wanted to do my Master’s with Dr Scott Eastham. I changed from stopping my studying to running head on into a new direction. I did the first year with a single hiccup – Communications Studies, so while I did my usual A range in Media Studies, I struggled with Communication Studies. But I did enjoy what I did. I did the research report with A.M. because I was saving Scott for the thesis year, as we had discussed.
Scott got cancer and was unable to be my supervisor, which simply put hurt. So I continued on with A.M. and emailed sporadically to Scott. I truly hoped he would recover and I would have time to talk with him and to continue to appreciate his worldview. This wonderful, giving, amazing human being died and it broke more of my heart and definitely affected my ability to write my thesis. Which at this time was already in dire trouble.
I love writing. I know my strengths and weaknesses in writing. Throughout this process I knew something was wrong but I couldn’t “fix” it. My supervisor is a fantastic editor but he lacks the capacity to work with a student like myself and how I view my writing. My worst memories are firstly from a meeting where he told me how bad my writing was (I knew that but I couldn’t fix it) and then told me I should be in tears for being told this information. I ended up defending my lack of emotion (lets no discuss how much I cried on the way home and for days after). The second was a meeting where he asked what happened to my writing over Christmas? Like it had been jettisoned sometime in the holidays and never recovered.
I know what was wrong with my thesis. I had no real argument formulated so that meant argument was weak and often misdirected. I just never got an understanding of the process (my real strength is finding the how and then being able to write within that, while still being me). I write with my heart as much as for my head, even in academic work. Scott taught me that. He was also the voice in my head saying – keep going you can do this. Thank goodness I listened to his voice!!
I absolutely refused to give up. The first attempt at a Master’s in Nursing died when my niece did – life just lost meaning for me. The second attempt at the same Master’s never got started as two days before the start I attempted suicide (twice) and never recovered my love of nursing. The rationale for these suicide attempts were complex but included my friend basically dying in my arms at work and my colleagues responses in the aftermath. But that is another story. I included it because this third attempt in a new content had some major baggage attached.
I have been ashamed of the grade I received. I have my Masters but the grade isn’t high enough to be able to do my PhD in Media Studies. It is the lowest grade I got for Media Studies. It was a B. This is an individual issue, I am not comparing to other students that fail or get a lower pass grade. It is how it made ME feel. I am not even sure I wanted to do a PhD but it was one more irritation. I wanted the option to be there.
So I graduate on Friday and I wanted to be thin and fit, joyous and proud. I wanted to remember Scott and the good times in Media Studies. But till today I was not sure I could even attend. I have major depression, agoraphobia, anxiety and PTSD to contend with, let alone how I feel about my thesis and its process. I am always anxious in front of other people and there are a lot of people in a graduation. I struggled on my wedding day with everyone staring and that was 26 years ago. I have declined being bridesmaids because I was worried my anxiety would ruin the day for the brides and I was too ashamed to fully explain to them why I couldn’t do it.
So today I woke up feeling like death reheated and left to rot. I recently started a new nutrition plan and am not sure it gets on with my meds for depression and anxiety. I decided to stop going with how I was feeling and just do something, anything. And then it hit me. Despite everything against my thesis being completed and passing, it did. I have my Masters and instead of hating it or being ambivalent I need to look at it as an example of just how damn tough I am. I cried while writing some of it, I had panic attacks for others and I just kept rewriting and researching and trying.
You don’t get pity grades at university. My thesis earned a B, it passed. I need to honour the work that went into it and stop just remembering the bad parts and the grade. So on Friday I will walk across that stage with pride because this accomplishment had the most against its achievement and I did it anyway.
I was talking to a friend about this and saying how now I knew what I wanted to write and he says – why not? Exactly, why not? So I am going to write a thesis with my new idea and when its complete see if I can get an article published from it. I am qualified to write in this field (just kind of realised that too), and time is available at the moment to do so, so I will. It will be put on my blog when its done in a year or so. So, on this day in 2016 I promise to post my thesis.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and get this far. Tell me your stories of studying and what inspires you to keep going in the face of overwhelming odds against it.
One last thing, when I cross that stage on Friday, I know Scott will walk beside me and in my head won’t be fear, anxiety or sheer terror, it will be the memories of studying Media Studies and the simple joy and love I found in doing so.