Tonight was the last session of my last class at the Harvard Extension School. My final paper isn't due until the end of next week, but it's already 90% complete. I can submit it via email, so I won't be going to campus ever again to attend class, hit the stacks, or meet with professors.
Graduate school is basically over.
It felt strange leaving Boylston Hall and walking out into the Yard for the last time. It was dark, quiet, and muddy with all of the melting snow. Kind of dank, actually. Not the type of scene that would typically evoke sentimental feelings, but I felt very keenly that it was the end of an era for me. My graduate studies began five years ago this month, and with the exception of the fall of 2004 (when my son was born) and the summer of 2007 (after my thesis was substantially complete) there hasn't been a semester that I haven't devoted major amounts of time to course readings, class, writing, and research. As of next Friday I will have written nine final papers (typical length, 20-30 double-spaced pages), several dozen smaller papers and essays, a thesis proposal and my thesis. Almost all have required multiple drafts and revisions. I will have also spent hundreds of hours in class and many thousands more studying, writing, or conducting paper and thesis research. Even during my commute to work, I am thinking about class and research. After next Friday, all of this comes to an end. It will be odd to not have these requirements and routines dominating my life any longer.
I usually stroll quickly back to my car parked on Mt. Auburn Street, so I can get home before my wife goes to sleep. Tonight, I passed slowly through the dark Yard. I passed Mass Hall and walked through the gate for the last time as a student, and then crossed Mass Ave. On the other side, at the mouth of Church Street, I turned back, and noticed -- for the first time in a long time -- the giant, ornate clock on the upper floors of Mass Hall, facing the street. It was dark, but I could see that the hands read 9:20. Behind it and to the left, I could see the slim steeple of Memorial Church with the lantern burning inside. That steeple at night has always been one of my favorite campus scenes -- it really gives me a sense of peace, even when I have been hurrying to catch a class or have been exiting Widener with a bag laden with books.
This time, even though I am no longer dealing with such pressures, it still brought me a sense of peace, and perhaps a sense of finality as well.