Not to say, of course, that it's some elaborate or ceremonious process. It's not. You literally walk into the Student Registry which has a red door -- hence Red Door photo -- and hand your two soft bound copies of the thesis, along with a form, to someone at the Registry, who then gets you to sign a form and collects the thesis from you. That's it.
Nevertheless, it marks the beginning of the end of the PhD -- in other words, the beginning of the completion of an important milestone. I was there with Barry when he submitted his last July, and no matter what state our friendship is in now (long story; don't feel like getting into it), it meant (and still means) something to me that I was there when he submitted, considering the amount of time we'd spent in the college library, working together -- especially when I was rewriting my first year paper.
And now John. I would not still be relatively healthily trucking on with the PhD if it weren't for him and Raffael. Without them both, I'm not sure how I would have survived, not sure if I wouldn't have quit already, and if not, not sure if I wouldn't be in serious depression right now.
But this is about John. We found out about each other on an online forum about postgrad admissions, and the first time we met, we went to a crappy English place opposite King's College. I'd thought he was gay at first; his pink shirt did not help. But he started talking to me about his private life, a girl that he'd liked, as if we'd known each other forever, thereby disarming me and opening the door for a genuine and meaningful friendship.
Of course, we hit a stumbling block at the start without my knowing it. He'd apparently liked me, but I was completely oblivious, though he only had himself to blame when we met in the faculty one day and he declared, 'You are my best friend now.' Why anyone would designate a potential love interest his 'best friend' boggles my mind, too.
In any event, thank goodness we never dated. Thank goodness we became friends. He's been so many things to me over the past three years: academic support and feedback, intellectual challenges and ruminations, relationship and life advisor, personal nutritionist and clown, my very own sexual harrasser, and my fellow complainer on our Jurisprudence Lake District hike. (It was actually hilarious the way John and I lagged far behind the rest of them -- Raffie, Josh and Visa -- and were in such foul moods, complaining like children, when hiking down. Raffie was annoyed at us!) He's enriched my life, both in Cambridge and more generally, in so many ways. Even the many times he made me cry with his no-holds-barred, no-filter, no-sugar-coating, no-consideration-of-feelings way of telling me that my Man of the Moment was shit for me were appreciated in hindsight, especially because my inability to get the fuck out of a bad situation had meant that he had to repeat himself over and over, like a broken record. I would like to think that his admonition of my stupidity and his words infiltrated my subconscious, so that they played some role in my eventual getting out of those bad situations, just so his efforts weren't in vain...it's a nice story and I'll stick to it, even if I doubt its veracity.
So we had a drink at Bould Brothers at about five, after he'd heroically opened my window for me, then walked in the rain to the Rainbow where he ate 25% of my food, as usual. Then he walked me back to college in the pissing rain despite the holes in his shoes and the fact that it was in the opposite direction from where he's currently staying. Then a hug at the college gate. Not a goodbye; a see you soon. Not just because I hate saying goodbye to people, but because I really do want to visit him (and Jay) in Birmingham sometime in August.
Still. His impending departure has not sunk in yet. I was not joking when I told him at the Rainbow that it feels like it was only yesterday that we met along King's Parade. I don't know what Cambridge is without him in it, for even though he's been shuttling back and forth between here and Poland (where his girlfriend lives), he always comes back, and he is always here. And now... he will be the first to break up the John-Raffael-Yalan triumvirate. I am happy for him that he's moving on to greener pastures and embarking on a new journey of his life, one that he's worked so hard for over the past few years and which he fully deserves; but I am also sad that he is redefining what Cambridge is to me. This is why I want to leave, too.
The jet lag is starting to hit me quite hard. It's only 9.18pm but I think I will go to bed.