Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Unknown

Image via lifeinvector

Just a quick (and possibly tres boring) PhD update. Many of you have been kind enough to ask what's happening, so here it is.

I am handing in a complete draft to my supervisor tomorrow. Hopefully, she will say it's almost ready for submission, in which case, I shall be very happy. The last draft I handed in needed substantial and tanty-inducing major surgery, so I'm slightly worried. There is a chance she may say, "Off with your head!" but I think that's only in my nightmares...

This has been a really tough and emotionally draining time, actually. I have really enjoyed most of my candidature, but lately everything seems to be that much harder. Having an entire book in your head, and trying to balance everything is just plain hard. I'm also finding it really hard being out with lots of people - they invariably ask (nicely, of course) where I'm up to, and I get anxious and stutter about PhDs being hard. It is one of those things I suspect only other PhDs really understand. I also have no good stories to tell, except "chapter one is looking better". It's like I'm a mother who can only talk about her child's progress, except the child is an inanimate object who is not nearly as cute as you'd hope for a three and a half year gestation period.

In many ways, I don't know how I expected anything different, but I think I hoped my OCD organisational skills might, like garlic to vampires, ward off this pain. Turns out there is no such thing as PhD-garlic. Nothing can ward off the end stages - it's like adolescence, or something. (The metaphors are getting weirder as the post continues. Sorry.)

Coupled with the immense stress of handing-in, there is also a crushingly awful, "but what do I do with my life now?"-feeling that is at best quite exciting, and at worst, really overwhelming. I know all the things I'm good at and that I care about, but am having lots of trouble seeing what a job would look like that used these skills and inclinations. I know I will find something (and look back on this blog entry with annoying smugness) and I know I should just trust that, but it is scary.

But the upside is that I can almost taste what freedom might feel like! After having worked every day (and a lot of nights) of this last month, I am looking forward to reading the paper on Saturdays, to meeting up with friends, to not having a knot in my stomach all the time, to starting a hundred new craft projects I've been thinking about and generally remembering how to relax.

And in excellent news, The Pal (who has been sensationally supportive and all-round lovely) received some great news on Friday. Turns out he has won the Uni Medal for being a good egg, so there's lots to celebrate. (It's actually the Uni Medal for Insanely High Marks for Years and Years, but same same, in my book.) It's also been a fun excuse to ring him and ask to speak to the medallist. Little things, right?!

So, thank you for your lovely words and support - I will hopefully be done in the next (ahem) few weeks. Will keep you posted. xx


  1. Wow! Aren't you two a couple of good (and brainy!) eggs?!

    I'm keeping my fingers and toes crossed for you that no more surgery will be required. And I promise never to ask "are you done yet?!" (in my mind that is even more annoying than kids crying "are we there yet?" over and over again.

    Good luck good luck good luck! xx

  2. Nearly there, Kate, nearly there. And if you have to rework the thesis in any way, it's always better to have the instruction come from your supervisor rather than an examiner. It just means she likes you and wants you to ace it! (Which you will do.)

    Sending you ridiculously large quantities of "you can do it!" love...


  3. Thank you for such lovely comments. It's a hard slog, but all the better for reading those :) xxxx

  4. I am struggling with performance and 'what next?' anxieties too. And I am only just making my way from base camp!

    One thing at a time, I guess. Wait til you've had some time to recuperate from thesis weight before you tackle the 'what next' question. My supervisor said that very few PhD students have a smooth transition to the next stage because it's not possible even practically to apply for things while in the write-up fog.

    Plus, you need some time and space (and lowering of andrenalin levels) for the 'what next?' answers to come forward in a form that is honest and positive. You'll get there!

    Thinking of you.

    Please give a big congratulations and high five to The Pal. Fantastic!

    Justine x x x

  5. That would be adrenaline! I clearly need me some lowering too. Writing like a demon this morning.

    The cleaner just asked me what I want to do 'when I grow up'. I said 'Uni lecturer' (my defensive response these days). He said, 'Just get married and you'll be lecturing your husband for the rest of your life'. I could not even pretend to smile.


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