Wednesday, February 11, 2015

How Many Degrees Does it Take to Get to the University? The World May Never Know...

In 2012, when I finished my MA, my parents gave me a coffee mug. White stoneware, the interior is a lovely sky blue color. The exterior of this lovely mug is adorned with a blue donkey overlaid with the word “Smart” in big, white, block letters. Smart. Donkey. Smart. Ass. Very cute. I don’t drink coffee.

The assumption being that at some point, education turns into an overwrought sense of self, of entitlement, of privilege, of pretentiousness. For example, I just analyzed a gag-gift that my parents gave me. I think I’ve proved my point.

Anyway, despite the mug, I kept going with my studies. It’s been a slog at times, but yesterday, I wrote the first words of my dissertation. In fact, I wrote almost three pages of words. It felt good. I realize, of course, that there is a good chance that those words will never make it into the actual dissertation. Or if they do, they will be changed so many times that these three pages will hardly be recognizable. That’s fine. It felt good to get started.

I was feeling good when I went home, wondering why balloons hadn’t fallen from the sky when I wrote those first words, but feeling good. I celebrated with some ice cream and homemade kolasås. (Fun fact, Word tried to correct that to koalas. That would be gross. I don’t eat koalas. Yet.)

This morning, when I rolled out of bed at 8am, sun shining into my bright, well-windowed apartment, I was still basking in the glory of having accomplished something tangible. Insofar as words on a digital document are tangible.

I headed to the subway, sat down, listened to my podcast, and planned my day. I have to switch trains when I head to the University. It’s the same line, but there are two branches. I have to switch to a second branch to get to the University. It’s a simple task. Something I’ve done countless times without incident. I pride myself on my ability to navigate public transportation with relative ease.

I climbed off my train and headed across the platform. I checked the time of the next two trains. I sat down. I waited. I watched as one train came. Not mine, I thought. But that’s fine. Only three minutes until the next one. Three minutes later, with Germanic efficiency, the train arrived. I climbed on, found a seat, found a newspaper, and began reading. Fascinating stuff. It’s the life of a commuter.

Finally, as the train slowed, I looked up. Only to realize that I had ridden the subway all the way back to where I started. There’s probably some sort of symbolism to be had here. My five- (six-? seven-?) year long journey leading me back to where I started. That it all ends where it begins. Something profound or deep that you would expect from a hipster-indie film as a voice-over at the end. I’ll leave that to someone else to analyze. All I know is that, what should have been a simple commute had just doubled in time and any residual pride, hope, excitement about having written anything for my dissertation slowly seethed out of me as I made my way, again, to the University.

Welcome to Sweden. And too much education. And not enough common sense.


  1. Wow, I can only imagine the long haul you have ahead of you for your Ph.D., but you have my respect for continuing your educational journey. Congrats on starting your dissertation!

    1. Thanks, we'll see how it goes in the coming year or so...

  2. I feel terribly guilty for the mug...

    1. pssh... you shouldn't. I thought it was funny.