Trying to separate the two faces of my PhD
It’s worth prefacing this post by noting that I am on Day 26 of continuous writing, no respite. That, and in my ‘spare time,’ I’m undertaking another research job and grappling with a different university’s ethics process. Can I just say UTS was a DREAM compared to this one!
Last month I committed to having a first draft complete before I went on a short weekend break to Sydney, to see all my friends I haven’t seen since our move a year ago. A YEAR! This week the whole trip fell to pieces because of poor planning and bad schedules (Note: Don’t let someone in their final stages of a PhD try and organise 15 people to do anything).
Add to this that I decided to give up sugar, carbs and all good naughty things and to exercise 5 times a week.
WHAT WAS I THINKING?
For the last week I have been a complete basket case. I completely related to this post on The Thesis Whisperer as I a) love Never-ending Story and b) had taken up residence in the swamp for the foreseeable future. To say I am not fun to be around is the understatement of 2016. And the sadness and anxiety that I feel over my PhD has coloured every corner of my life.
Then, I got a dose of perspective.
Firstly, my best friend, who knew of my general pain through social media/text message/general BFF psychic-link, sent me a bunch of flowers. There’s nothing like a bunch of flowers to make you feel better.
Then I spoke to another friend last night who is doing her Honours in Psychology. I spoke about how badly it is all going.
“But you check in with someone right?” she said.
“And they’re happy with what you’re doing?”
“Yes, I guess.”
“Then what’s your problem?”
And I thought about that a bit. Every milestone I’ve had to meet for this PhD, I have. And the feedback has generally been constructive and positive. Sure the last milestone was 6 months ago, but still. The only thing I haven’t achieved that I want (desperately) is to have something published. And maybe that won’t happen. Or maybe it won’t happen until after I submit the PhD. But in the scheme of things it’s tolerable.
Today I had call with my supervisor.
“How’s it going?” she asks.
“Terrible,” I reply.
And we proceed to talk about how my theoretical and conceptual framework is pretty much where it needs to be and how the ideas have come together in my (very badly written, but progressing) discussion chapter.
She didn’t, but could have added: “Then what’s your problem?”
My problem is that I can’t see the wood from the trees. I’ve spent 26 days sitting at this desk thinking I’ve wasted 4 years of my life.
I have to separate the two faces of the PhD – the emotional and the intellectual. The intellectual knows I have 68,000 words and a few (maybe more than a few) chapters that are 90% done. The intellectual knows that I just have to keep chipping away and in 2-3 weeks I’ll have a rough first draft.
The emotional thinks I’m never going to be accepted as a PhD. That the writing is rubbish and I’m sick of being cold (bloody Melbourne) and I can’t remember when I last laughed until I cried. I’ve just cried.
This is the reality I exist within at the moment. There’s no use pretending otherwise. And I’d like to say I can reconcile the two faces, but in the short term I can’t. I just have to keep working. And maybe eat the occasional piece of chocolate.
Dr. Kim Goodwin has a PhD from the University of Technology, Sydney. This story was published on October 14, 2016, on Dr. Goodwin's blog, PhD 2017 (available here) and has been republished here with her permission.