One thing I have been hesitant to write and post about during my research has been the PhD process itself. But what the hell, its a new year, and I’m feeling cathartic lol. Which probably has to do with the unending nature of PhDs themselves.
I think that, among some of my friends/family/acquaintances/connections there has been the expectation that once I submitted my thesis and got through the oral examination, it was all done and dusted. They could mockingly call me Dr (rightly so btw), and then mock me once more when I get a job flipping burgers at MacDonalds (quite likely), whilst talking crap that no one understands or is that interested in (PhD side-effect, rampant, long-lasting, thankfully not contagious). But no, horror of horrors, like every step in the PhD process, although the oral examine was the end, it was only the end of the beginning (0r the beginning of another end … I’m not sure which way your that goes …).
Thesis submitted: check! Oral examination: check (and slaughtered btw). Graduation …. hmmmm ok. So, when they tell you you’ve passed your PhD, there’s a catch. This is to be expected, PhDs are full of catches. There’s the catch that once you’re enrolled, you then have to been accepted to keep that enrolment, then you have to get through the ethics stuff, then you have to get through the regular reporting to the uni so you can keep doing what you are trying to do. And beyond the official stuff, there’s dealing with all the internal stuff that tells you that there is no good reason for you to be getting through the official stuff: haven’t they worked out that you’re clueless and a faker and that your research is going to be crap, yet?? Yes, PhDs are full of catches – some official, and a lot that are self-made. If you’ve never experienced self-doubt before, just do a PhD – it will reshape the most hardened of us.
With all that in mind you can imagine the horror of the ongoing PhD process – the catch being IT IS NEVER OVER. Lol. Of course, this is not all bad. Well, its bad on the days when you’ve had a guts-full of it. But on other days there’s the knowledge that you get to indulge your brain in stuff that’s (hopefully) still very interesting. But here’s the big catch for those of us at this particular stage of the PhD process (oral passed, thesis conferred with X changes): if we are not careful, we can spend another 3.5 or however many years fixing the small changes suggested by your thesis examiners. The battle then reduces to pragmatism v idealism/perfectionism. What do to, what to do.
This is where I’m at. I have a list of required changes, and a list of recommended changes. The requireds are kind of interesting, but the recommended are REALLY interesting, but require more analysis, more reading, more writing, more drafting, more thinking … more time. The question, where to draw the line. How to say stop to a process that can be horrifyingly addictive. PhDs are like sugar addictions – we know that they can do to us, but we do them anyway.
Of course, once the changes are done, there’s the NEXT phase: publication. If you’re like me then the nature of your research means that part of the examiners’ recommendations included book publication and mainstream press publication. So, along with journal articles, a book publication, and mainstream press articles and release notices you have to ask, when the hell do I find time to do anything other than PhD stuff? Ah yes, PhDs, the gift that just keeps on giving.
So with all this in mind, you can understand why I have been reticent about blogging the PhD process – because once the lamentation/celebration begins, it, like the PhD process, never ends.
But that’s OK. Life is life that. The best most worthwhile things drive us nuts, and are always reaching forward into our lives, but we are always glad we’ve done them in the end (omg, PhD has made me into a life coach).
So, expect gluts and droughts in the writing process, as I cycle through the love-hate relationship most of us have with our research. At least I can relax in the knowledge that I am not alone – most of my PhD friends are equally as angst-ridden. So next time you see anyone who is doing or has one, remember to give the poor buggers a moment of sympathy lol.