Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Last 'Public Engagement'

this month, I had a 'progress review'. the very last one... that same day, I attended a lecture in my department, and went out for a celebratory drink with some PhD friends and colleagues afterwards, again, perhaps for the very last time. (i do not intend to stay in academia; so I wonder if maybe this was my last 'public engagement', for a good long while, and certainly until the 'baby'  - PhD - is born. I wonder if this is how Kate Middleton feels.)

I have not enjoyed the progress reviews. you arrive at the door, you smile at people and try to be agreeable, but basically you know that in a few minutes some professors will be asking you difficult and complicated questions over the inadequate little essay you sent them, and that some of them will tell you that they were 'not convinced' by your argument. there is worse: when they initially arrive, looking casual and happy and pleased with themselves, they go into the room first and shut the door, and from where you are waiting out in the corridor you can hear them conferring. occasionally - and this is the worst bit - you catch a phrase or two. 'She likes to... [mumble mumble mumble]', says your second supervisor's voice. (your ears prick up. what? WHAT do I 'like to' do?...] 'She's very...' and so on. occasionally, the voices fall suspiciously quiet, and you know they are whispering. occasionally, you might hear a brief snort of laughter. while i am sure they are not laughing at me or my work, but more likely at their own wit and brilliance, still, it's rubbish, sitting outside that door and waiting to be let in, to have my 'progress' 'reviewed', and sitting there I feel very small and very sad.

i wish i could be a fly on the wall. what are they saying about my work amongst themselves, in the privacy of their office, that they will not say to me?... if i could hear them, would it help me? would I suddenly have the key to some big mystery that I am not privy to? maybe what they are saying is, she's very unconfident, she'll never be an academic, let's just help her get through this last hurdle, let's not be too mean to her. or maybe they are saying: she's very bright, she likes to work hard on these essays and i am sure that, with a bit more tinkering, she can go very far. either way, it would help me to hear it if they happen to be saying either of these things.

anyway: it is done, it is over, and I shall never have to do one again.

in other news, I feel like I am floundering. some extra-curricular teaching stuff, as well as a weekend spent travelling, have got in the way of me doing any PhD work for the past five days or so. I have been away from it for long enough that I can't remember what the relevant files are saved under, or what I last did on that chapter, or where I was going, or how on earth I could have convinced myself that I will soon be finished, when there is clearly shitloads of work still to be done. I haven't had time to incorporate any of the changes the tutors suggested at my progress review. I haven't done a thing, really. I feel a bit like a runaway train. and I have an impossible to-do list of non-PhD things that I don't even want to go near. and I have to find the mental space to finish a PhD.

but then, today, i thought: it's only a PhD. I can't seem to finish it - but why not?... what would happen if I DID... just finish it? just type it out, any old how, hand it in to the supervisors and check for typos while they are reading it (to save time). it doesn't matter if it's rubbish. i am not going to be an academic. why am I still tinkering with it? why don't I just finish it?...

so tomorrow, when I have a whole day free, I will sit down and I will just finish my introduction. I am just going to do it, fast and imperfectly. I will hold a finished thing in my hands. I will need to play with it again on the following day. but it's time to get something a bit more 'finished'. it's time to start finishing.

I want to finish this thing so I can start something else.


  1. Your last post so perfectly encapsulates my present experience with my PhD that I was immediately reassured and I too resolve to try to 'finish' at least something this week, even though the gods (those infernal non PhD understanding beings) have conspired against me with numerous things I have to do this week. Things that I agreed to six months ago, thinking I will be well rid of the PhD by then! Ha! The confidence of the naive!
    I too can't wait to finish, so that I can get my life back ... and maybe ... one day ... when (and if) I have recovered ... then ... perhaps ... do something else ...
    With PhD empathy ...

    1. hahahahahaha... 'the gods.' Oh, you crack me up. thank you so much for commenting, each comment on this blog is like a drop of sunshine in my life (or should that be 'ray'?)

      'with PhD empathy' - can I please steal this and put it on a greetings card??...