I have a video recording of my doctoral defense and that moment my advisor welcomed me back into the room and said, “Congratulations, Dr. Hy Huynh.” The moment happened so fast in real-time though, so I’m grateful I can go back, slow it down, and savor that moment, frame by frame.
Watching the recording brought certain visuals to mind. It was as if a towering stack of papers filled with thousands of hours of research, writing, and analysis (of cartoon-like, space-height proportions), or a closed looping circle of feelings of hopelessness, determination, and hopelessness again — all of the sudden softened, stood still, and then dissolved in front of me. It was over. The marathon was over. All of those strained efforts to sustain my mental stamina– they could finally rest. It was the most peaceful and blissful ending to an era.
And so begins my reparative efforts to re-calibrate and re-center myself (after all, post-PhD self-care is important too). With my head comfortably above water for the first time in months, I’m starting to remember everything that used to help me feel balanced and nourished. I looked at my calendar and realized it’s almost my one year anniversary of moving to Asheville. I moved here in large part because of these mountains and forests, but I haven’t seen them in months because of this dissertation. Exactly a year ago, I also started my photography website and business (on my 30th birthday). But, as you probably already guessed, I also haven’t picked up my camera in months.
Finally, I have the space and time to self-prescribe (as an official doctor) the things that grounded me once before. Yes, this is exactly what the Dr. (or this doctorate) ordered.
(Forest bathing and mountain airing with my friends and camera: this is my ultimate post-PhD celebration.)