I defended my dissertation in August of 2oo3. I’d moved back to my hometown in May 2002, so the whole defense business meant that I needed to fly back and take care of the whole defense thing in a few days, knowing that I already had a tenure-track job that was to start in just a week or so after that, so there was a lot riding on the defense going as planned. Thank god I had Medusa, my bestest friend from grad school, to let me stay with her and to take care of me in order that I might get myself defended.
So, today, Naomi, one of my besties from high school, defended her dissertation, at a university just a few minutes from where I live, serendipitously. She got into town on Wed. night. I fed her, I left her alone, I told her to stop reading her dissertation because she knew what she was doing, and I drove her to her defense this morning. Naomi is now Dr. Naomi. I’m so excited for her! And after she had officially passed I took her to lunch and filled her with wine, just as Medusa had done for me, lo, those many years ago.
She was more grateful than she should have been, and less believing of her accomplishment than she should have been – as I guess I was when I was in her place, too. But as I said to her, “look: Medusa did the same for me. All you have to do is to do this for somebody else if you ever have the opportunity. Seriously.”
And I also told her this, and I really do believe it: finishing the Ph.D. – successfully defending the dissertation – is, I think, the biggest accomplishment a person can have. For me, this was so much bigger than getting a job, so much bigger than getting tenure, so much bigger than publishing my book. For a lot of reasons. I don’t have kids, but even if I did, this would be something that I did for myself – under my own steam. It’s a big motherfucking deal. And I think that she’s done it is a big motherfucking deal, and I’m so happy that I could give her yummy food and comfort and friendship to help her through it. I’ve known Naomi since 1988. She is, seriously, my family. And she has her motherfucking doctorate. And that is as awesome as anything I can think of.