“I’ve had a relationship with this document for a longer than I’ve had a relationship with you”
My words to my husband as we printed and bound my masters dissertation in the early hours of a Monday morning. I had just started the second year of my Masters studies when we met in 2013. Now, two and half years after we met my husband and I were standing in front of an industrial photocopy machine printing and binding the 221 page document that is my Master of Arts (Drama and Film) dissertation. And a 23 page draft article which still needs fine tuning before I could admit it for publication, and plagiarism forms, and the form I required to submit my dissertation. Despite a long week, and all the work still waiting for us my husband had sat next to me as I did my final proofread. Brought me cups of tea to make sure that I stayed hydrated and accompanied some of the mugs of tea with vitamins to make sure I stayed energised and focused.
Sometimes tired happens to good people. After punching holes in the wrong side of the page for binding, we found more paper reprinted and punched holes in the correct side of the page and bound both copies of my dissertation. Home to bed, and two a half hours later Mauritz was up and off to work, and I was up and off to Pretoria to submit.
Parking at the University of Pretoria is always a problem. Always. We joke and say that when you receive any degree from the University of Pretoria you got it with diploma in parking. Students at the Hatfield campus can fit a car into spaces previously not deemed large enough to fit a car. We are creative and precise parkers. As I started my third circle of campus looking for a parking spot I decided to go off grid. Next to one of the theatres close to the drama department was an area we often used when parking was problematic. When I got there two other cars were already parked there, but there appeared to be just enough space for me to fit, although a concrete bench would make things slightly problematic. I got my car close to the parking, pulled up my hand brake, got out of the car, took a deep breath and pulled the concrete bench out of the way. It only moved a few centimetres. I could only move the heavy concrete bench a few centimetres but it was enough. I got the room I needed to park and I was out. Copies in hand and off to my study supervisor to get my form signed. My stomach felt heavy as I climbed the stairs. I was expecting to feel light. Perhaps even relief. I said as much to my study supervisor. He told me about his first Master’s student:
“When he handed in his hard copies for the library he looked light as a feather”
It didn’t help my lead-like feeling much. With my signed form I walked to the administration offices where I needed to hand in my dissertation. My brother had joined me and was with me to metaphorically hold my hand at this point in my life that marked the culmination of years of work. When we got to the office the admin clerk who was supposed to accept my work was out on lunch. Which gave us time for me to brake my tea rule for cappuccinos. Mostly so that I could stay awake. While we waited I copied my digital work in pdf and word format to a CD on a hunch. My hunch paid off. As I handed in my two copies, forms, plagiarism forma and article the administration clerk asked for my CD with the digital work. Cool as a cucumber I handed over the freshly burned CD. Anticlimactically.
I stood at the counter, glass separating myself and the clerk and I felt somewhat hollow. Three and a half years of work. Hours of my life, my social life. Time I could have spent planning my wedding, time I could have spent with family or friends, time I could have spent sleeping went into that document and it was suddenly out of my hands. There was nothing and for now I would get nothing in return. I looked at the clerk who smiled at me:
“About halfway through the process I’ll send you an email to keep you up to date. Congratulations.”
On the way home I phoned my parents to let them know my dissertation was submitted. They had been there for me, and helped and supported me through 7.5 years of studying, crying, laughing:
"You and Mauritz should go out for dinner tonight"
"We are both exhausted. We hardly slept last night, so I think I'll just get us takeaways for supper"
"In that case make it fancy takeaways. We can't be there for you today, but we can pay for a really special supper"