Sunday, Jun. 16, 2019 - 3:50 pm.
Whew. I've barely had the chance to write here since Andrew and I returned from the US on June 6th. The trip was, after all, a success. The main goal was achieved, which was to spend quality time with parents, siblings, sisters-in-law, nephews and nieces. When we were saying goodbye at the airport to hop on different flights, I told my mom she can expect Chilean grandkids in the future and I think I added five years to her lifespan.
Our own flight home was dreadful. Desperately long and turbulent. But we made it safely to the UK, with all the joy that one feels when coming home. Andrew and I managed our jet lag beautifully, though. We were not bothered by the 7-hour switch, and so we waltzed into this past week, which would see us having our vivas, our PhD exams.
Andrew passed his exam on Monday! I passed mine on Friday! We need to submit corrections to our theses, but we're practically doctors now. It feels great. I'm not overly excited for some reason, however. Perhaps because it's such a long journey with so many tiny milestones (strictly speaking, I'm still not a doctor), or because having a different title does not change how much of an expert I feel in my field. Regardless. This is a big deal, for us as individuals and as a couple, and we're happy. We made it!
I think I was more nervous for Andrew's viva than for my own. My experience was quite fun, I enjoyed talking to a major psychologist in my field, who was my external examiner. I think I could have given better answers, but he and my internal examiner (who's in my lab, and is also going places in academia with her work) were very welcoming and gracious. They were challenging me with their questions, but you could tell they were rooting for me.
After my viva, we invited people to a bar nearby to join us for a drink. It was to celebrate my viva, but also Andrew's. A bunch of friends from the PhD program (either students, or who have finished but work at the department) came along. It was the right amount and quality of people, and a nice celebratory evening was had by all.
I sat next to a girl who's in her first year of the PhD. Let's call her Ab. I've talked to Ab a few times in the office, sometimes about academia, sometimes about personal life. She's very friendly. She's incredibly sweet and I've always felt protective of her.
Much to my dismay, that Friday evening I found myself developing a devastating crush on her, one I've tried to keep at bay ("she's sweet and I just want to protect her") because she's much younger than me. She's, what, 23? It's not enough that a person I like is "legal", the age difference between us should not be more or less than seven years. I read about that rule somewhere. I don't know, it sounds quite sensible.
Ab and I talked about issues with her girlfriend. On top of being nice and sweet, she's quick to disclose personal information. Or maybe that's been a huge burden for her and hopefully she noticed I'm a great listener, and felt she could trust me to discuss it. In a bar. Surrounded by a lot of people. But OK. Anyway, I could empathize with her position, AND her girlfriend's position, as I've been in one or the other throughout my life. Most importantly, I didn't want to stop talking to her nor leave her side.
Andrew and I talked to different people that evening at our table, but we were across the table from each other. He's an expert in reading my body language, so on our way home, when I told him it was great talking to Ab, he said "I could tell" with a smirk. I'm honest with him about my crushes, and thankfully he supports my emotional explorations.
The next day, I told him I thought Ab had beautiful hair, long, shiny and possibly very soft. His reply was "She is too young for you, you know?". Which I appreciated, in a this-is-embarrassing-but-it's-the-truth sort of way. Yes, I'm aware. My gut reaction to pretty people in their early or mid-twenties is "you are so cute, let me put you back in your crib". But when I said goodbye to Ab, I was desperate to find an excuse to meet again, besides saying hello when we pass each other in the office (also, she's British so she doesn't always look at me). But we're still strangers. And I'm an elder. I just said goodbye.
My heart ached for a while from crushing so hard, but it didn't last long. It was Andrew's 35th birthday on Saturday! We went for a proper English breakfast, we met with the Chilean community for an unrelated reason (but still they sang happy birthday to him), I gave him a useful present and a thoughtful card. I'm so in love with Andrew, he's the best person I've ever met. I'm so lucky I got to marry him. It was a happy day, his birthday, for the two of us.
Now we're starting the heart-wrenching task of de-attaching us from the UK. On our way home after Andrew's viva on Monday, I saw an old banner outside a restaurant, something like "open for Christmas Day", and tears piled up in my eyes. I'm not going to be here, in this city, in this country, this Christmas. And everyday since then, I think a bit about what to pack, what to throw away, what to say and give as a goodbye to the friends I've made here. The UK has been my home and I'm not ready to give that up.