Allison watched the mini-drama unfold down the block, and sighed with relief. She put down the leaf rake, stepped inside to heat up a cup of tea, and went to the old wooden Adirondack chair perched on a wobbly patch of grass in her back yard. The seat had been warmed by the sun and she adjusted the chair so her eyes were shaded.
She remembered the feeling of walking out of her master’s thesis defense, after the only woman professor in her department had cleverly maneuvered the conversation so as to block Dr. Wright from using his favorite harassment tactic. Dr. Tejana had quickly confirmed the validity of her methodology, and moved on to ask some insightful questions about the results. Allison had almost been tempted to continue her research, seeing it through Dr. Tejana’s eyes. It suddenly seemed interesting and important again.
Then, her committee chair had snored. Actually snored, startling himself awake. Dr. Wright, deprived of the ability to corner her, had exercised his predatory predilections by attacking her results on grounds so spurious, she nearly laughed out loud. Somehow she’d managed an answer, and the chair had dismissed her so the committee could decide her fate. Pass, pass with revisions, or fail. Those were the options.
But as she’d stepped out of the room, Allison knew there was one more option, the one she’d exercise no matter the decision of the committee.
She was done with the whole charade. She’d learned a great deal from her graduate studies, mostly about herself. She was not going into a life in academia. The real world beckoned her in the shape of an old green house on an old street in a small town. Allison knew that she could make that house into something beautiful. No, it was deeper than that. She knew the house was already beautiful, and just needed some elbow grease to reveal the beauty hidden under rickety wood, slipping shingles, and matted carpet.
Tackle the house with a master’s degree or without. It mattered not to her, not any more.
So, when Dr. Tejana emerged with a smile, said “congratulations, Allison, I hope you’ll use me as a reference for your Ph.D. Program applications,” Allison smiled back, said “thank you” and meant it with all her heart. “But I’m taking some time off,” she added.
“I hope it won’t be long. You are a promising researcher, and we need people like you in our field,” Dr. Tejana replied, and turned to leave.
“Dr. Tejana,” Allison called, and the professor turned back. “Thank you. For, you know. What you did in there.” As she said it, Dr. Wright walked into the hallway. He extended his hand to Allison, offering an oily “congratulations” of his own.
Allison pointedly looked at his extended hand, which she knew was another of his tactics. He’d pull female students into hugs that were too tight, too long, too everything.
She ignored his hand and his comment, turned to give Dr. Tejana a very appropriate hug, and walked out of the building.
Remembering that, Allison reoriented her chair again, catching more of the lingering sun’s rays, and went back to planning her attack on that matted carpet.