Today is April 7th, the 22nd anniversary of the start of the Rwandan genocide. Today (coincidentally) I successfully defended my Honors Thesis for the Peace, War, & Defense department here at UNC. The subject of which was civilian participation in violence during the Rwandan genocide. I have been working on this project for over a year and this milestone brings me such joy, that it is hard to articulate.
First, as I shared a few days ago, my interest in genocide studies and genocide prevention began when I was in middle school. This is a passion that has carried me through my academic and professional life. In a traditional sense, a thesis is the culmination of one’s work in college, in my case this project is representative of what I have spent my life working on thus far. This is all of the protests, classes, trips, conversations, and conferences. This is the hours spent trying to rationalize why people commit genocide. This document is 80-pages of “me.” It also helped remind me, at a crucial point in my life as I look to graduate college, what I do and why. I study genocide and conflict so that moving forward I can try and prevent it.
This summer when I went to Rwanda I was terrified. Not terrified to travel in the country alone, but to be on the precipice of what I knew was an incredibly influential project for me personally. Looking back over the past year and I half, I have learned so much from the thesis process, but I have also struggled.
I have mentioned in the past that I have a chronic health condition but I never detail on social media how much that actually effects me. This year has been brutal. I can’t count how many hours I spent in doctors offices, urgent care, the ER, physical therapy, etc etc. At times it felt like my life was one long medical appointment. There are so many times this year I thought I was going to have to drop my thesis. That I thought my thesis, my life’s work, would be one more thing that my disease would steal from me. I was terrified that if I was unable to complete it, that it would be proof that I couldn’t lead the life that I want while having with this disease.
But I did it. This morning I defend my thesis and I was awarded honors. It feels like, not only have I completed a project representative of what I am passionate about, but I have also proven to myself that this disease is not going to slow me down. So screw you EDS, I am going to graduate college in three weeks and I am going to live the life that I have always planned for myself.
Also to anyone considering a thesis, do it. Do it if you are incredibly passionate about something. Do it if theres an issue in the world that you wake up everyday and think about. Do it if you have a deep and unyielding sense of curiosity. And as cliched as this may sound, to anyone who feels as though they have a limitation on there capabilities, whether it be physical, mental, or financial – fuck it. If I can complete an honors thesis, while having my life consumed by a genetic condition, then so can you.