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Archive for Medi, 2010

            I now have 6 months left on my current research contract, which is part-time and based at lovely Sandstone University. I’m struggling a bit on the part-time pay but I like it here and the two days off a week will give me the time and space I need to complete my thesis, now that I have come off suspension. But my PhD ends in May and my contract ends in March, with no current guarantee of an extension. The worst possible case scenario that I can imagine would be for me to have to scramble around looking for jobs at precisely the same moment that I am on the home straight with my thesis…oranges in the distance, legs feeling like rubber etc. So what to do?

            I’ve been scouring the internet for jobs and have found a few over in Limestone which are really quite attractive positions and would certainly improve my finances…but this is because most of them are full time, which would make the thesis-writing a bit of a miserable struggle at the weekends and would certainly scupper my ideas about getting seriously into training for triathlons.

           After going round and round in circles I’ve started making job applications – but only for the really plumb, cushy numbers – the ‘ideal world’ jobs that will have me rubbing my hands together in glee if I manage to land one! It’s actually been quite exciting and, in some ways, cathartic, as I reflect on all I that I have achieved since graduating ten years ago (ten years?!)

           Whilst this isn’t the best time to be job-hunting it has been heartening to find that there are still some good opportunities in my chosen field of work. I’m not even sure now which scenario would be best – stay here where the pay is lower but it is lovely and I have begun settling in, or go back to Limestone where I would be handsomely rewarded but would have further to travel and have less time for baking, swimming and, oh yes, writing my thesis!

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          And so it’s over, all the toing and froing, advancing and retreating, for better or worse I have come off suspension of studies and re-begun my PhD studies – to finish at the end of May 2011. It’s difficult to untangle how I feel about this – Am I excited? Yes. Am I anxious? Definitely. But there’s an intangible, circular-feeling (in that it keeps going around in circles and I can’t pin down what it means).

          I think I’ve been anxious about being on suspension of studies and feeling that I need to be actually doing the work and be able to talk about it as my current occupation, rather than having to launch into the whole complicated history every time someone innocently asks “And what do you do for a living?”.

          But now that I have re-begun my studies I feel anxious that this is it – this is really it, my last chance, over a finite amount of time. These next few months will determine whether I graduate or not, whether I become Dr or not, if I have a snowflake’s chance of a career in academia (and, in some senses, any career at all) or not…I have been frozen in time “a PhD student” has been a part of my identity for the last 4 years, legitimating my position as part-time this and sort-of that, but this status quo cannot go on forever, and now everything is changing…which is of course a good thing because being frozen in time is no way to live your life, and sooner or later you bump into the same people and they wonder “But you’ve been doing that for years, shouldn’t you be further along by now?”.

          So why am I not jumping up and down with joy? I suppose it’s the possibility of failure? Though in truth, if I put in the effort, I know I can pass this darned thing – it is only the ‘write up’ I have left, after all, and, as you can see, I have no problem filling pages (or cyber-wasteland) and I did, at one time, have a surprisingly good grasp of my subject…but, after procrastinating for so long and seeing it as almost a dream of something to do, in the future, when I’m all grown up and well-read…now the hour is upon me and I must stand toe-to-metaphorical-toe with my inner-Doubting-Thomas, or demon, or invisible wall, or whatever…and I must be victorious…

          I wonder how many other PhD candidates there are at this very moment, sitting on their own beds, staring out of the window and wondering if they are ready to re-begin their studies? According to Douglas Adams in The Meaning of Liff it is often the case that many people share the same experience but don’t realise it is common, thinking it unique to themselves, simply because there is no shared word for that feeling or situation. Obviously there are others on suspension-of-studies, and plenty who come back from suspension and soar through their ‘write-up’ with flying colours…but I wonder if others experience the same circular-anxiety as I have described here? Anxious about not doing it, but anxious about doing it, but anxious to not do it, but more anxious to start it…and so on and so forth? Douglas Adams used place names (such as Woking) to give names to the unnamed phenomena…I wonder what he would have called this particular phenomenon? I think I would propose:

‘Llanfairpwllgwyngillgogerychgwyndrobwyllsantysiliogogogoch’

…with the following justification: I am the namer and I am Welsh and proud of this placename, despite its slightly cynical origin; it is a long, complicated word reflecting the complicated nature of the phenomenon, however, unlike the phenomemnon, it can be summarised to Llanfair PG…and most people will still know what you are talking about…whilst any attempt to do this with the mid-thesis-angst described above will result in either more confusion or else complete apathy on the part of the listener!

          Anyway, navel-gazing like this will never get my thesis done by the summer. I must focus.

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           I am currently in Hungary and am soaking up every little detail for my “I dream of Jean Rhys” story. I’m not going to have the chance to spend much time drifting gloomily around Budapest, nor probably to track down and drink “Pommery” or eat “Paprika and canard savage” but I am getting to see lots of the “real, everyday Hungary” since we’re not on the usual tourist route and I think this will help me to come up with some Jean-like observations. I’m also exhausted from trying to keep up with everyone else on the holiday and am feeling quite fatigued…which is also helping me to get into the Jean-mood!

         I’m off now to curl up in my new, Hungarian-home-crafted, woolly jumper, order a proper hot-chocolate and read ‘Vienne’ for some further inspiration…

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