Thursday, 23 October 2014

I heart PhD students

A friend of mine, who is a journalist, has recently written a not-terribly-controversial article, in which she takes issue with some young female beauty vlogger’s attempt to reinvent herself as a ‘feminist’. The issue being that, if one minute you are claiming that ‘teenage girls should love their bodies and faces and should, like, go out without makeup sometimes!’, and the next you are making money by encouraging them to spend their own cash on your preferred tube of mascara, then there is perhaps something amiss there.

Anyway, she published this article, and spent the next day reeling from an unbelievably savage barrage of assault on Twitter. The tweets mostly ranged from unbelievably mean (and unjustified) comments on her personal appearance, to suggestions that she should be sued/ shot/ killed.
Attempting to make light of the situation, she tweeted a joke, saying that ‘next time she’ll publish an article called ‘Why I hate One Direction’. This resulted in her getting tweets like ‘THINK TWICE BITCH’ and ‘I FUCKING DARE YOU’.

I personally sometimes am tempted to write something slightly more racy than my usual repertoire, and publish an article containing my thoughts on feminism/ body image/ global politics/ capitalism/ whatever. The thought of saying something which might be deemed controversial, however, and then having to read stupid and horrible comments about myself all day long, is something which has previously entered my mind, and has more than once stopped my hand from hitting ‘Publish’. Now I remember why.

It made me think, also, that I really DO know how to pick my audiences, don’t I?... I have chosen to write a blog which is more likely than not to be ready by only PhD students. Who, in my experience, are basically the nicest, most logical, rational, sensible people there are. PhD students do not, by definition, read something and immediately react with ‘What utter crap. DIE, BITCH!’… No; the very nature of their training and profession means that they consider evidence carefully; they read critically, but with an open mind; they say things like ‘While one might be tempted to respond by saying ‘DIE, BITCH’, IS there really enough EVIDENCE to suggest…?’ and so on. Things are not just black and white to a PhD student, and anything we do not immediately understand or agree with does not automatically get consigned to the dustbin.

It made me appreciate the fact that I work with, and deal with, and write for, academics and PhD students. It made me remember how, when I was on the verge of PhD despair, a Graduate School Guru who was speaking at a seminar on motivation made me feel better by pointing out that there are many things in this profession to be grateful for, one of them being the company of clever, wonderful colleagues and friends.

You are all pretty wonderful. Keep at it. That would be all.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014


Tis the anniversary of The End. I am now one year on from the finishing of the thesis. I am cheering for everyone who is submitting their PhD, or who has done so in the last few days.

Today I am working from home. I have a scented candle lit in front of me (recommended by a useful motivational blogger as a pretty thing to have on your desk, to make your work space/ office 'more appealing', and therefore more likely to inspire you to work). I have a cup of tea. I have projects and plans, and ideas and books to read.

I'm still the same as I always was, mind you, I still procrastinate, waste time, wonder sometimes where the day has gone. I still haven't made my six-figure salary (damn) and I still contemplate going off to sing in the street to make some extra money. But I'm much happier. Finishing the PhD has served to make me start taking care of myself, to start treating myself a lot more nicely. I no longer do any of that beating-myself-up stuff that I used to do ('I'm not good enough/ I can't do it/ It doesn't matter what I do, I'll never get there/ This is too hard/ Why do I always do everything wrong?'/ etc etc etc). I don't do that anymore.

It's interesting, too, how I've been reacting differently every time there's a spanner in the works, or a brick wall in front of me. Instead of throwing my arms up in the air and going 'Oh well, too hard', or 'Waaaah! Why can't I have what I want? Why is life so unfair?...', instead I've surprised myself by thinking 'OK, so I can't have it my way. So this means, if I want it, I'm going to have to do it another way. So first I have to do XYZ... And I'm perfectly capable of doing XYZ. Let's do it.'

'I get the feeling that for you, this wasn't so much about getting a PhD', a friend said this summer,'as it was about sorting your head out and working on YOURSELF. YOU were the thing that you had to work on so hard!' And we drank to my success in working on me.

The thing is, I don't mean to brag, but I've noticed some changes. You read enough self-help books, I guess that stuff eventually gets to you. There hasn't been that much of a change noticeable to the outside world as yet. But occasionally, just occasionally, I say I'll do something and then I actually do it. Instead of procrastinating on it for months, and then forgetting it was ever meant to happen, and then wondering why my life is not going anywhere, I've started to make things happen for myself. I've started to notice that the people who get things done in this world are not necessarily the best people at doing those things. They're just the ones who decided to get into action - and they stayed in action. The other day, the Lover noticed this new propensity for actually doing what I say I want to do. He says he finds the new me a bit 'scary'.

'You know, it's actually frightening to think how far you could go, if you really decided to go for what you want to do', he said the other day.

Quotes of the day (from my favourite self-help books, of course) :

'What would you do with your life if you found that you have only six months to live?'


'What would you do if you were very bold, and you knew that you couldn't possibly fail at anything you try?'...