On Tuesday, I was presented with a diploma which certified my status as a Master of Science. From this day forward, I can truthfully tell people that I hold an advanced degree in theoretical physics*.
Convocation itself was a dreadfully boring affair, consisting mainly of standing around in lines and listening to unmemorable speeches. The name on my diploma is, of course, my legal one (although, by a bit of last-minute opportunity-seizing, I was able to ensure that my preferred name was the one that was actually read aloud**). What matters though, is not the ceremony itself, but what it represented:
The conclusion of a chapter in my life.
I arrived in this city three years ago, having little life experience, no knowledge of living on my own, and only the most cursory understanding of who I was as a person. During the intervening time, I made new friends (and some enemies), experienced disappointments (and triumphs***) and realized what I wanted out of life. I rented apartments, sat around talking with friends into the wee hours of the morning, had my heart broken, experienced months of frustration and nights of panic; I experimented, did some things right, royally screwed-up on others; I learned some new things and failed to learn others; I brewed-up a black hole in my bath tub like a hillbilly making moonshine**** and I switched sexes. In short, I lived.
Now, I have moved away from that city. Off to spend the next week at my parents’ house and then on to France for a nine-week long summer school, and from there…somewhere else.
I worry about my future. I worry that the life I have built is falling in on itself. But I want to keep on living.
*And consequently, a great many of them (in spite of all evidence to the contrary) will automatically assume that I’m some kind of super-genius.
**Essentially, they gave us all slips of paper, bearing our names for the orator to read. We had the option to write in phonetic spellings if our names were especially difficult to pronounce. The name on my slip was “James,” but, using a felt-tipped marker which I found literally seconds before my turn was up, I claimed that it was pronounced “Jaime.”
***I suffer from this bizarre belief that a single moment of victory can justify years of hardship.
****Not really; I derived some equations for acoustic black holes in a fluid medium, but this just sounds way cooler (and also, far less likely to make people’s eyes glaze over)