The Real PhD

…I have a niece from “The Land Down Under” who recently submitted her thesis for her PhD.She posted the following on her Facebook account and “tagged” me there so I could read it.So for today I have no fancy wanderings of the mind to present,rather I would submit that no matter how this young woman’s thesis is recieved she has earned her PhD and touched the very soul of this humble man.I proudly presnet a note from Dr.Kate…

Miscellaneous musings – relatively recent…


I was talking to one of my students yesterday about John Calvin, and how his life was changed by an off-the-cuff criticism from a colleague. But for that comment, he’d have left Geneva and gone on to a solitary life, my student told me, of scholarship. Instead, he played a seminal role in the Reformation, got his name in the history books, and changed the way thousands, eventually millions, of people understood and lived their faith.

Calvin believed this one lone comment was a sign of God’s will, which then steered him down a new and unexpected path.

“It’s interesting,” I said to my student, “how people make those life-changing decisions based on that sense of divine intervention – if they believe in that sort of thing.” I took pause after I said that and wondered: ‘do I believe in that sort of thing?’

I’m not sure.

At various points in my life, I’d have said ‘absolutely.’ Others, well, I’d have argued that everything is completely random.

Now? Now I read from the good book of the Rolling Stones. “You can’t always get what you want,” or so the chorus goes, “But if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need.”

These last couple of years have been rough. And I say that in the full knowledge that I’m spoiled – terribly spoiled – by the opportunities that life has handed me on a gilded platter. Just because every door seems (to other people) to be open to me, that doesn’t necessarily mean I see them that way. Often, it seemed like every single door had been slammed shut, and I was standing alone in a dark, damp hallway, afraid of what I couldn’t see, and more terrified of what I knew.

I wasn’t good enough. I’m not good enough? I’m not sure anymore.

Gods I’ve missed writing. I mean, writing’s all I’ve been doing (along with researching, teaching and talking) for the last few years. But I miss spilling my soul out onto paper in increments. Instead, the PhD felt like locking little bits of myself up in pages and footnotes and chapters, and finally the whole huge, wildly imperfect thing.

I guess that’s the point, though. It’s ok to be imperfect in prose. In stream-of-consciousness… I can make peace, therefore, with my imperfections on a day-to-day basis, but not when I’m being judged for them. Not when three supposedly impartial markers are holding each assertion, every literary stumble, up to a harsh light that starts to singe and sear in seconds.

In short, I don’t have many certainties left in my life. I personally feel remarkably fluid. And I’ve been revelling in that freedom since I submitted my child over a month ago. I have no real idea what I want to do with my life. And I’ve made peace with that. I’m living for every little thing that makes life worthwhile. And I’m loving that. But the certainties that remain, well, they’re my rocks right now.

And they’re pretty simple. I adore my family. It’s not always been easy, but somehow this road has led most of us to a point of love and acceptance. I’m proud of my parents, my aunts, uncles, and cousins. And my grandad. I’m proud of my heritage. I love who I am, and where I came from, good and bad. The love and support my parents and all the rest have given me so unconditionally, as I struggled and wallowed, and nearly drowned this last year or so has been incredible. For that, I already owe them everything.

But they’re hardly alone.

One caveat – I have been profoundly disappointed by a friend or two in the last year or so. Some of the people I valued most let me down when I really needed them. But that said, by and large, my friends – old and new – are spectacular people who have given me more – made me more than I ever thought possible. And for that, I am so grateful.

The kindness of strangers has been almost as inspiring. The train poet. The bookstore boy. Every individual I’ve spoke to who’s reminded me, most often inadvertently, that humankind has the potential to be extraordinarily beautiful, wondrous, and deserving. But that said, I still think we should sterilize the bogans. Starting with many of the ones I have the misfortune to knowLaughing out loud


All of this overflow – written in minutes, when it took me days to fashion a single line of my thesis – was sparked off by reading my uncle’s blog. He started it around the age of fifty. Not much schooling, but the man can write – poignantly, humorously, at times pointedly – but always as if responding to some burning spark in his soul.

My spark has not gone out.

My creativity is not dead.

The future…well, we’ll see.

But in these few moments here, I’ve turned a phrase or two I can be proud of. And I want to keep writing. I need to keep writing. And I will, whatever the future holds…….

…I thank the good Dr.Kate as she has not only earned her PhD in life but has rewarded me with the knowledge that my words have the power to touch and inspire another….the highest possible praise this humble man could ever have bestowed upon him…….

…………………I am and shall humbly remain…………………………………

…………………….Thecatsman PhD(school of hard knocks)…………………

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3 Responses to The Real PhD

  1. R L Burns says:

    i loved your niece’s piece and am so glad you shared it with us! even more glad that you realize the positive impact your words have on others! she is totally spot on in regard to the spark that shows in your writing! i agree with her one hundred percent. you r writing is full of passion and i admire that greatly. rl


  2. Joyce says:

    Catsman, it is obvious the apple does not fall far from the tree. It does appear that you had inspired her as a child and it has seeded in her as an adult. Bless you and have a blessed Thanksgiving as I give thanks for you.


    • Thecatsman says:

      She is my middle sister’s daughter and I think my humble influence on the young lady was due to my meanderings here on my blog.My personal “apples” wander into here I know but seldom say anything,I have yet to find the words to express my thoughts and feelings where they are concerned.Did they fall far from the tree? No but they are so much more than I and that is the deep desire of any parent…..that their childern will become more than the parents.In that I am well satisfied and they are yet young adults…..


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