I was lead down the hallway by a hotel employee. The ceilings were low and the fluorescent light gave off a dull but audible buzz. I looked at my feet, watching the red and yellow circles adorning the carpet disappear and reappear with each step. She stopped at a door with a hazed window and let me in.
The room was dimly lit, with teal linoleum chairs, a grumbling AC, and late Nevadan light penetrating even the darkest of curtains. It was large, meant for meetings or presentations for an audience. As she told me that I was welcome to use the kitchenette, I considered how comical it was that this woman, who I likely would not ever interact with again, was a critical part of a day I had been planning for years.
I chose a chair and placed it against the most unadorned part of the beige wall. I filled the cup I had brought with water from the kitchenette. I took out a few snacks from my small backpack and placed them neatly near me, just in case I got hungry.
Three hours later, I closed my laptop and leaned back uncomfortably against my chair. The whine of the AC suddenly grew louder as it started another cycle. For the first time, I heard the footsteps of the guests milling about on the other side of the wall. Doors closing, muffled conversations fading away.
It felt, strange, being a newly minted Dr. Hodzic alone in this hotel conference room in Nevada. Having attended many defenses during my time in Seattle, I knew the drill: you hope to get Douglass hall, because it is the nicest room, with large windows revealing the vibrant greenery of the botanic gardens. But, you will settle if you have to go to Bloedel. Everyone in your lab brings snacks. You socialize during the 5 minutes you have to breathe after your defense and before your private deliberation with your committee. Then, you throw a party at a house, at a brewery, wherever; all that mattered was that you let go of everything. I craved the same celebration for myself.
In that moment, the air was mute, numb, unsaturated, unpalpable, disappointing.