Tuesday, 31 July 2012

The Joys of the PhD

For those of you who read this blog: have you noticed that posts have been infrequent, and that I have not really been doing what I said on the tin (ie. using this blog for extensive complaining about the PhD)?...

Maybe it’s the fact that, just having a blog called ‘I hate my PhD’, and just posting the first disgruntled little blog post on it, is enough, by way of therapy, to make you feel better. The blog kind of defeats its own purpose; just describing why you hate the PhD actually goes a long way in terms of making you feel better about it.

Maybe it’s just because there are the odd perks to doing a PhD, and here are just some of them:
-       Sometimes you write something good, and you get to read it back to yourself in joy and wonder. You realize you are clever and you’re actually doing well. (of course that’s before you then look at your research schedule and realize that, yes, you wrote a nice chapter, but in fact you are five chapters behind, as far as your targets are concerned. Ah, well…)
-       Sometimes you can stay in and write your PhD from home. There have recently been many days when I have not needed to go to the library for a whole day, just for an hour or so in the evening to check the odd reference and to look something up quickly. The joy of staying in bed and writing can be immense.
-       Writing a PhD means you can be free at odd hours in the day, when other people aren’t; therefore, you can pop out to go shopping and run errands mid-afternoon. Sometimes, when you are on the way from one library to another, you can use it as an opportunity to swing by some weird and wonderful shops on the way; my favourite is a quick visit to the People’s Supermarket in Bloomsbury, or the Alara organic shop in Marchmont Street, on my way to the British Library. (warning: avoid the mid-afternoon coffee break, where you waste the entire working afternoon having a nice catch-up with an old friend. Your friend is not doing a PhD and therefore does not know that he or she is actually taking up your most productive bit of the day.)
-       Writing a humanities PhD does something to you. It might not make you much cleverer; it may not make you happier; but something happens. It is a transformative process. You come out somehow… better at something, more able to understand people, things, the world, than you were before.
-       Sometimes your Mum asks you what it is that you are actually working on. You tell her. ‘That is so wonderful. I’m so proud of you!’, she says. And your heart swells with happiness.
-       The PhD will one day be over. You can take things further and make it into a book and try and get an academic job, or you can give a copy to your grandad, put one copy on your own shelf, and forget it ever happened. You can just treat it as the little project you did when you were young and crazy and fancied spending three years of your life grappling with a huge, near-impossible thing... 

No comments:

Post a Comment