I am a Doctor of Philosophy.
With letters before and after my name. And if you look carefully in the dustier parts of the internet you’ll find my doctorate published by an international university press.
It was a massive effort to complete. I lost (almost) everything in the process. My relationship. Friends. Possessions. Addresses.
My mental health suffered. There were times when I couldn’t imagine carrying on with it. It was all too much all of the time. Unrelenting in its need to be attended to. Like some curious tumour that demanded everything I had and much more.
One more idea. Just one more. Another word. Another sentence.
More words. Another chapter. And another.
And. And. And.
More. Just more.
But I endured. Battled. Wrestled. Fought. Endured.
And completed. Because completing is everything. There is nothing else. The whole thing is just too much to not succeed. There is nothing else other than completion. I saw too many other people around me stretch out their lives by extending their registration. Going from full-time to part-time. Three years to five, seven, eleven, forever. Just adding more time to their lives. More. Endless. And then discover that there is no end. No completion. Planets have stopped rotating on their axes for less.
The process was like digging a hole as deep as you can possibly dig, toiling each day to shift tiny amounts of soil, pushing them to one side, tamping them down, making sure that too much soil doesn’t fall back into the hole. But the digging was everything. Everything.
Picture the hole I dug over three years. It was roughly ninety-six thousands words deep, not counting footnotes. But the hole’s dimensions can be measured in many ways. Not just word count.
Hours, obviously. The time it took to type each word, each sentence, each and every paragraph. To edit and rearrange, delete and rewrite.
I wrote in a tiny cubby hole overlooking a vast reading room in the university library. Perched high above the room like a furrowed gargoyle. Watching people come and go as I remained. Returning each day to dig a bit deeper. To change a word. Delete a sentence. Correct a spelling, for the millionth time.
I am proud of the effort. It took everything I had but I’m proud of myself. More importantly, the effort rewarded me with a career where my doctorate has been valuable.
But I can’t stop thinking about the hole I dug.
You can’t dig a hole that deep and not wonder how else you might measure its depth.
That’s what I’m doing right now.