We were sitting in a nice restaurant enjoying a candle-lit vegetarian meal, when my companion (who, by the way, is a honestly employed person, with a busy job which makes him very tired and takes up all his time) said something Profound.
‘You know, when you have a job’, he told me (we had just been talking about my PhD, and I was getting a bit gloomy over my ever-delayed completion date. The completion date doesn’t seem to be inching any closer. If anything, it seems to be slipping further and further into the distance…), ‘when you have a job, the job wants your soul. The job wants you to drop everything else, drop your life, and just give all your time and all your life to it. And the PhD, too, wants your soul. And I get the feeling that you are not quite prepared to give it your soul.’
I had once heard a friend (who has successfully completed her PhD) describing the final painful months thus: ‘It felt like I was locked in a room with a guy, and I was going to have to sleep with him, but I really, really didn’t want to sleep with him. I was going to have to have sex with that guy, and I didn’t want to, but until I did, I wasn’t going to be leaving that room. And I DIDN’T WANT TO do it. But then … you end up doing it, and you survive, and you even end up falling a little bit in love with the guy.’
For all its connotations of hell and damnation, I’m going to stick with the ‘soul’ analogy; it’s nicer.
He’s right, I thought, sitting there over the candlelit dinner, pushing the vegetarian lasagne around my plate. The PhD wants my soul. I am not going to finish the fucker until I stop doing what I am doing now, which is writing when I feel like, trying to make my life as pleasant as possible, feeling gloomy when I want to, taking fifty trips a day to the coffee machine, and interrupting myself whenever I have finally got going, because I have agreed to go have coffee with someone, or because I have booked a weekend away to see my family; or because I want to pretend that I am a normal person and that I should be allowed to do things like spend my evenings sitting around strumming the guitar and having a nice time. No. The PhD wants my soul.