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PhD: To regret or not to regret

PhD: To regret or not to regret

After almost four years of struggling, today, I handed in my PhD thesis. In only a few months, I will be a Doctor in Linguistics. But I can’t help but wonder – what have I really got to show for now? 

I did it. I finished the thesis! After hitting the “send” button on the email at 3 pm this afternoon, I went around the office and snatched up my lovely colleagues to treat them to ice cream. After all, this needs to be celebrated! Between the scoops of chocolate and banana ice cream, everyone asked me how I felt. I guess they were going for “proud,” “happy,” or “excited.” And I have to admit, I was jumping around for a bit. But after walking home from work, I now mostly feel confused. I guess I am just relieved. Not so much that I did it – that I actually really did it – but more so that it’s almost over now. I was listening to some happy music on the way back and thinking to myself – I should focus on the good stuff now!

I’ve been feeling really restless for a long time now. I’d love to go adventuring again; although I don’t think that’s really an option for me right now. But if it wasn’t for this PhD, I might never have stopped adventuring. Who knows which crazy country I’d be exploring right now!

And this nagging thought has been driving me absolutely crazy and it just makes me feel so stuck. Especially since I now have to start looking for a new job; some new career I can get excited about. When in fact, all I want to do is go work on an Alpaca farm for a bit or bake biscuits all day long or just disappear from view for a little or a long while. Thinking about that stuff isn’t helpful though. I have to be realistic. So I either come up with more feasible plans, or I find a way to actually become a biscuit-baking alpaca farmer. Either way, I have to make *something* happen. And for that, I have to stay positive. Which means – YAY! I FINISHED MY THESIS!

So, what do I have to show for now?

I have lovely memories of my amazing colleagues and super fun campus. I can never regret not giving this a try. And I can be proud of finishing this insane project, whether or not I wanted to. I’ve definitely proven to myself now that I do not give up easily. I’ve now had the experience of working the same job for 4 years (That’s a really long time in my experience, to do the same thing in the same place!). And I’ve learned some things that will come in handy in future careers – like how to deal with authority. I got to work from home a lot, which is lovely in summer! The pay wasn’t bad, which means that the husband and I now have a few options to maybe go on an exciting holiday, or are well on our way to save up to buy some property in the not-so-distant future.

Even while writing this, I’ve been wanting to add things like “even though” and “but.” I feel like I have a lot more to say about how these four years feel wasted on something that didn’t make me happy; rather than about the good stuff I actually got from it. BUT in the end, it doesn’t matter whether I regret these last four years or not. They’ve passed and I’m not getting them back. Either way, I decide what my next story will be. And I guess the thing I feel most excited about now, is to do exactly that!

So, ask me again. How do I feel now? Beyond proud and happy and excited! Bring on the next challenge!

Working from home in summerThe making of my thesis: working from home in summer


Jolijn Sonnaert has a PhD in Linguistics. This story was published on July 4, 2018, Jolijn's blog, Post-Travel-Life (available here) and has been republished here with her permission.

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