So here I am, finally writing my second blog entry.
Those lovely promises that I made in my first post, that go along the lines of writing every week to remember every moment of my PhD journey, happily crashed once the real journey begun and I cannot stop feeling guilty for every moment spent not working. Blog, unfortunately, still counts as not working in my mind.
Don’t get me wrong – I do procrastinate, just perhaps in less meaningful ways than keeping track of my life as a PhD student. For instance, last week my colleague and I discovered a scooter in our PhD office, which up until now leads to occasional (or maybe more than occasional) rides around the office, at least when it is not too full. Helps if anyone is feeling drowsy too! And then there is an attempt to have some social life, and to balance it with the PhD work. Even if I don’t mind working alone, having social commitments has proven to be a lifesaver. I was elected to the committee of the Postgraduate Society, and am one of the office bearers at our Staff/PG badminton club. Occasionally, I get a chance to travel too, though that has only happened twice so far (not counting a study-related seminar). This still seems a bit too often to me, but I couldn’t say no!
Life as a PhD student would be incredibly thoughtless and easy if it was limited to what I have just described. The above, really, are just a couple of moments of distraction from what I would turn into a 24/7 work week. I still can’t stop feeling guilty if I’m not sitting in front of my laptop/an article, which doesn’t always translate into productive work. I also feel like an absolute idiot for a lot of the time. At the moment this feeling is particularly strong – maybe because it is the beginning, maybe because I am now working on a topic about which I knew hardly anything before starting, and it just takes a long, looong time to put things together in my tiny little brain. Screw me for changing disciplines between my undergrad and Master’s/PhD. Moreover, sometimes it feels as if I have lost any ability to do research and write. Not having written anything since February makes me feel incredibly out of practice. The first two months have also brought me a methodological crisis, and an epic writer’s block, which I did not expect to come so early. It needed to go though, even if that meant resorting to an anticipated deadline and pulling I don’t know how many all-nighters to meet it. Well, I always wanted to see the sunrise over the sea, and I got to do that just a couple of days before my birthday! 🙂 I just have to keep repeating myself that I have never really been a beginnings’ person.
However, I spend a lot of time thinking back and smiling. I remember last year, when I was working on my proposal and whining “but this is so hard!”, a second-year PhD friend told me that this is the easiest thing I will ever get to write if I get accepted. On a theoretical level I knew she was right from the very beginning, but experiencing it by myself brings it to a whole new level. I sometimes wish I could simply write the proposal again. Or an essay. Any of the essays that seemed “so haaard” during my Master’s. I also remember my other PhD friends asking me “Are you sure you want this?” when I told them I was working on my research proposal. Now, I find myself asking my aspiring-PhD friends just the same question and sending them a picture of my desk at 4am so that they can think whether this is what they really want. And yet, I have never felt greater inner peace. I wish I was better at it, but at least I have my answers to the questions “why am I doing this?” and “are you sure you want this?”. I am living a dream, even if the question “How is it going?” confuses me lately, and I honestly don’t know what to say because the reality is just so overwhelming. To be fair, most of the new PhD students in my department pause just a moment too long before answering this question, and the answer is often “It’s going…” There seems to be a lot of community spirit around, which also extends to the community among students and staff who have all been there themselves. The first two months of my PhD have been tough, but I still cannot imagine myself anywhere else.
(The wonderful morning when I saw the sunrise)