A high distinction for an ethical conundrum

For those playing at home, I received my marks back for my research undertaken for my Masters this week.

I received a high distinction which gives me a final GPA of 6.83 out of 7. I believe this not only makes me eligible for a Dean’s award for this past academic year, but I think I’m eligible to receive the university medal.

I’m pretty chuffed.

What I have told few people, if any, is the reason I didn’t complete this research as planned in February 2020 – and it has nothing to do with COVID-19.

In July 2019, I received feedback on my ethics application from the uni’s ethics committee. I remember this vividly because I was wearing little more than lingerie when the email hit my inbox – I was waiting for Tom to arrive for one of our too brief sexing sessions.

As I read through the feedback, that was likely warranted and fair, I became completely overwhelmed and cried. Putting that application together was far more complex than I could have anticipated. Hours and hours of work, more than 40 easily, had been put into that alone not to mention my accompanying research proposal. While the committee hadn’t rejected it outright, merely asked me to clarify or provide more information, I felt utterly drained and defeated.

This was about a month after I had told Tom I loved him. A month of me walking on eggshells, desperate not to lose him but desperate to hear him say it back. I spoke carefully, avoided sensitive subjects and played the game the way he wanted. I was in love with a married man. I also hated my job and now hours of my academic life stared back at me from a computer screen asking for more information. In short, I was in a bad place. The irony of losing my shit over an ethics application because of my affair with a married man was not lost on me.

By the time Tom arrived for sex, I had dried my tears. If he noticed at all he didn’t say anything. I didn’t tell him because I didn’t want to get upset again and give him a reason to leave.

The whole experience of this time so marked me that I couldn’t bring myself to open that email again. I let the ethics application lapse. I told my supervisor I was going to take a leave of absence. She moved on to other students.

When COVID came to Australia in earnest in March 2020, I used it as an excuse not to study. I took another leave of absence.

It wasn’t until September 2020 that my new supervisor convinced me it was worth pursuing. It was timely. Tom was out of my life. We hadn’t spoken since early 2020. I had found some of myself again.

When I started writing my dissertation, I approached it the way I always had – at the last minute. I didn’t let men or other distractions or even a corrupted file stop me, although it came very close. Tom was back by this stage, offering to have his IT people look at my corrupted file. It was the only time he ever offered me anything that wasn’t sexual.

I don’t blame Tom for my choice not to pursue my original ethics application but the distraction that he was in my life at that time was certainly a contributing factor.

I’m really fucking proud of this HD. And I’m really fucking proud Tom is out of my life.

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