So – after over a month – the aide of the secretary of the Dean finally called (yes, you can see waht kind of priority Ph.D. diplomas have around here. But she was much nicer than the other two, and seemed much smarter, too, so I was content with that).
She asked whether I’d like to pick up my diploma at the office. Or whether they should just mail it over.
Just to recap: my diploma had been misspelled for the second time by the office in charge, so it had to be reordered – a task of five minutes – and then it needed to be signed by two people much much higher up in the academical food chain – apparently a task of over a month – to then make it into my hands.
I was about to say “just mail it, I’m done with all this”, but what if they had managed to misspell “Assyrian” yet again? Also, I still felt somewhat festive about finally, FINALLY being allowed to officially carry my title, so I decided to pick the diploma up in person and made an appointment, or rather, I wanted to make a formal appointment and she just said “Oh, don’t you worry, just drop by during my office hours.”
Yup, very formal and festive.
The day in question, it poured. Since I’m not a grad student any longer now, I had no access to the student season ticket for the bus, so I walked downtown and the rain felt like buckets or bathtubs being upended onto the street.
I arrived with my pants drenched up until my knees, my (freshly polished) boots making squishing water noises and left a trail of waterdrops all the way up to the third floor, where I was still trying to feel festive and proud to finally receive this paper after more than seven years.
The secretary’s aide attended me in between two calls, with a friendly smile and a “here you go!”. She didn’t know me, but she didn’t want to see any documentation -so theoretically, she would also have handed out my diploma to a complete stranger.
And then I stood in the corridor again, with two simple DINA4 papers in my hand (I didn’t even get a university-issued paper folder with the university logo!).
“Congratulations,” I muttered.
*Squish, squish* applauded my boots.
And then I walked back home. The rain had let up.
Now, the two copies of the diploma are stashed in one of the many, many big folders labeled “Ph.D. research/papers” in my apartment, while I did not get that perfect fit of a post-doc position I had set my sights on (they didn’t find anyone more qualified, either, but someone more mellow whom they knew better already).
Now it is time for the Assistant Supervisor’s favorite slogan, that she tends to tell to Ph.D. candidates in their last year, when they are already seeing the promised land on the horizon: “The really hard years are the ones after you get your Ph.D.” After all, you can’t have your candidates feeling in any way hopeful or – God forbid! – optimistic about the future. I also think she feels the need it to share her own bitterness, since she never made department chair and never got a call, despitel completing the second big thesis that comes after the Ph.D. in Germany, the Habil.
I’m still pondering to try for a Habil/post-doc position and continue towards a career (if you can call it that) in academia – that’s what I want. That’s what I would love to do until I drop dead. But with no positions around and the few that there are going to people with contacts (and not necessarily qualifications), I’m not sure I’ll get the chance and instead wonder what will come first: an empty bank account or bitterness about the academia business.
I see professors who openly say they don’t care about their students and are present 1 1/2 days out of 5 a week, getting a full salary and doing talkshow appearances. I see post-docs who delivered Ph.D.s I would reject in a B.A. candidate. I see people so full of themselves that there is no space left for actual research or – much less – good teaching.
For now, I’ll keep searching – for as long as I can hold on. At least while I am unemployed and have to take a lot of walks, I have time to think about new stories, and to continue editing my novels…