It’s Friday evening, I’m sitting in my room having finished my dinner, and cannot force myself to pick the article that I have been reading earlier today. Then I remember that it’s been a while since I’ve last wrote a blog post, and voila. It’s Friday evening, I’m sitting in my room having finished my dinner, and writing a blog post on my PhD life updates.
It’s been an interesting couple of weeks, really. Spring break, a little bit of travelling, a research workshop with academics from our department, and reading reading reading… Overall, things seem to be going better – I’m understanding my own perspective more, but still continue to attend as many lectures/developmental activities as possible (as long as they are at least vaguely related to my topic) in order to make up for the knowledge that I feel I’m lacking due to changing disciplines. I am also continuing to challenge myself in a variety of ways to gain more confidence by participating in various activities where, for instance, I could not avoid talking and expressing my opinion in larger groups. They drain me every time, but I have got so much better at it since October that it inspires me to challenge myself further.
There’s a thoughtless side in my PhD life too. Today, my coursemate and I had a good laugh talking about various theories, papers and stuff. We were having lunch and just talking about the number of new theories we keep finding in academic papers. I read one yesterday, and it had maybe six – four of which I’ve never heard of. It’s almost as if you pick a random word, then add a word “theory”, and it becomes an actual theory. So a desk theory is a theory on how your posture changes during the course of the day. A water bottle theory analyses your health situation using a water consumption parameter, and the frequency of water bottle change is an additional variable that determines your wellbeing. My coursemate commented that theories are like fluffy pets that you either tame or not – basically like Pokemon. “Yeah. Gotta catch them all!…” – I answered. Nerd talk, I know.
Then, for some more procrastin……..selective participation, we started to develop an academic bingo. Ever heard of the seminar bingo? We’re working on an academic paper version of that. Basically, we started making a list of academic buzzwords of different complexity, ranging from easy to hard. Words like “theory”, “original” or “critical” are easy. “Paradigm”, “shift”, “ontology” or “epistemology” are of medium difficulty. If you spot words like “a priori”, “a posteriori”, “typology”, “dichotomy” or “postmodern”, you’re really going hardcore with your readings. We only came up with a limited number of words thus far. But by next week we’ll put them on a 3×3 table and play it with other coursemates – get 3 in a line and shout BINGO! Playing this bingo has a high potential to keep us all focused on reading – after all, you have to provide a reference for your claim of having found a word! Bingo or a draft chapter, academic integrity/rigour is important.
This week we also had a visiting PhD student from Australia – was really great to meet new people, hear new perspectives, share experiences. Having him around has definitely added some livelihood to our quite empty PhD office – must be the post-spring break effect. I just catch myself often thinking that I have no clue where did the time go. You just do what you always do – read, write, participate in seminars, go to workshops or classes, try to see friends, read some more… and then bang – out of nowhere, it’s April already. And it almost feels as if you haven’t really done anything – just that increasing pile of read papers and books remind you the content of your days. Well, that and the feeling you get when you re-open something that you’ve read a while ago and it makes so much more sense. I’m realising now that based on my expectations of myself I should probably have finished my thesis by now – not that I ever thought it was possible, I’m just realising the level of the pressure I was, and still am, putting on myself.
Our annual review is due shortly, and I feel the stress building up – within me and around me. I would probably be more worried if I wasn’t stressed though – it is an important thing after all, so it’s all normal, I keep telling myself. As always, I’m hoping for a Disney end, while trying to prepare for a Shakespeare one – with the number of butterflies in my stomach multiplying with every single day of spring. I’m clearly only at the beginning of mastering a vital skill every PhD student must learn in becoming an academic – how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, all day every day.