… and these four words marked a new beginning for me. About a couple of weeks ago my doctoral program culminated with the Viva examination. Where in some cultures, the young undergo certain rites of passage to adulthood, the Viva exam was an academic version for a “young” academic to transition into a recognized scholar.
Depending on one’s university, most PhD programs end with an oral presentation of their thesis. This examination often included a section on defending their research to a panel of examiners. The choices upon completion of the Viva were (1) Pass with no revisions (rare), (2) Pass with minor revisions (most), (3) Pass with major revisions (some), (4) Not pass or award a minor degree (unlikely). Thankfully, mine was pass with minor revisions. Nevertheless, by the time one reaches the Viva stage with supervisor approval, one has spent a considerable amount of time (usually years) on a specific research and have gained a certain level of expertise in a particular field. Hence, I’ve heard many people say, once you get to Viva, it is almost automatic to be awarded the doctorate.
Now that I have some time to reflect, I thought about what this title means to me. To start, there is a certain level of pride with being called Dr, which some may view as arrogance. And its over use, such as this blog, may diffuse its power. However, I’ve decided to embrace it for just this short while. Perhaps to savor it just a moment longer. And here are my reasons why.
First, getting a doctorate came with a price. I don’t care what others claim, the doctoral program was not easy for me. A sacrifice was made. For different people it meant giving up different things, for me it was time, money, energy, effort (physical and lots of mental). Things of value have a cost. And for me, it was always writing the dissertation rather than doing something else. I am not a fast writer; so what takes some people one hour to do, it would take me three times that amount. After all, writing a dissertation was literally the task of writing a book. That meant tons and tons of time had to be acquired to get the writing done. Don’t let anyone tell you differently: something has to give to obtain the doctorate.
Getting this doctorate requires passion. Sure the doctoral project was not meant to solve global environmental problems or world peace. But it did require me to have some form of meaningful interest in my field. If I wasn’t passionate about my topic, I could not have endured the numerous rewrites–these were rewrites of full chapters. Think about it, how often can one revisit a particular subject, not to mention a particular angle for a single chapter. At some point in time, it takes some passion muster through such a big project.
I am Dr. Ng means this is a start and not the end. I used to think the doctorate degree was a final achievement, but actually it is only the beginning. Even during the Viva, my examiners asked me where is my research going. What would I do next? Where can I explore? This title merely gives me validity to the work done thus far. However, there is so much more possibilities ahead.
Thus, my doctorate does not signify that I am smarter or better than others. Instead, my doctorate degree denotes sacrifices made and passions found. I am still a learner, just like you.