Almost ever since she left her homeland of Malaysia for a new life with me and our daughter in Australia 22 years ago, my wife has been working tirelessly towards achieving her dream of becoming an academic.
At times it must have seemed to her like a nightmare, having to both study and simultaneously to succeed as spectacularly as she surely has as in such other, equally demanding roles as best friend, lover and wife to me, marvelous mother to our daughter, devoted daughter to her parents, steadfast sister to her siblings and other intimates and associates and a bright light to her bosom buddies.
And on top of all that she’s had to work full-time for long spells, and more recently to increasingly work part-time, as I, 29 years her senior, have steadily declined in employability and earning power to the point at which my financial contribution to our joint income is a pension that doesn’t even pay our rent, let alone support our shared smoking habit.
In other words, as I’ve previously commented in some other column or blog, she’s unfailingly and uncomplainingly shouldered more of the financial load as I’ve inevitably and inexorably declined from being an at least relatively high-functioning husband to something more like a husburden.
But she’s amazingly seldom shown the strain and the flagging spirits she must have felt at times, and never for long.
So you can imagine how much I admire her academic achievements thus far – a degree in media arts, followed by a post-graduate degree in teaching and then a master’s in international education – as well as her impending completion of a PhD in government and international relations.
All of which makes my own educational record look pathetically lackademic. When I left school all those years ago, and enrolled in veterinary science, I was so slackademic as to eventually be expelled for repeated failure.
And though I was far less lackademic or slackademic, in fact quite crackademic, in the arts degree I embarked on to keep myself off the streets and on the ball in my semi-retirement, by about half way through I started to feel that the seemingly endless round of lectures, tutorials, exams, essays and other assignments was steadily driving me academented.
Or maybe it was my fault for being so wackydemic, or, if you prefer, attackademic, about a great many of the theories I was encountering, especially in philosophy, much of which I’d come to view as so silly as to be more appropriately referred to as phoolosophy, or, given its almost complete traditional monopoly by and bias toward males, phallusophy.
In short, the sole academic qualification I’ve managed to attain is the graduate diploma in counselling I completed before embarking on the abovementioned abortive undergraduate study of arts.
But, as meagre as that surely is compared with my wife’s acadreamy achievements, I’m eternally grateful for the fresh insights, attitudes and mindsets that the counselling course inculcated in me, if only because they’ve rendered me far more patient, understanding and supportive of my wife through her years of persevering with her studies than I might have been otherwise.
Additionally, my long life’s experience as a writer, if only of first advertising and subsequently short columns and blogs, has helped me enormously to empathise with and I hope in some ways even prove of some help my wife in what to me seems the almost impossible task of researching, writing and rewriting an 80,000-word thesis,firstly to the satisfaction of her supervisors and ultimately to the approval of a panel of examiners.
Not that she really needs any help, having progressed by dint of her own industry and determination all the way from her first educational job in Australia as a swimming instructor, or, if you like, aquademic, through some years as a a high-school teacher of teenagers (acnedemic?) to the point at which she’s now poised to take her place among the elite in the big, wide world of academia.
Speaking of the world, where on earth this career will take her is anybody’s guess. In anticipation of her acquisition of a PhD she’s already been tutoring at one of Sydney’s universities and lecturing at another, but she’s also been eyeing possible jobs in locations as widely diverse as Wollongong, NSW; Hong Kong; Austin, Texas; and Cracow, Poland.
And as far as I’m concerned, as long as she was happy to accompany me to to such outlandish working environments as India back when I had a career in advertising, I’ll be delighted to follow her to anyplace she’s prepared to take me, just as long as it does no harm to her reputation in the academy to be married to some increasingly doddering, geriatric acadummy.