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Running in circles and treading water


So the first week of term teaching wise I’m glad to be back, have some routine and focus and some students (yes I really do like my students)

Phd wise not the greatest week I’ve had, nothing  has gone majorly wrong I just once again find myself running in circles. 

There are certain hoops to be jumped through, certain boxes to be ticked I appreciate however when it feels like all I’ve done since January is jump through hoops and tick boxes I start to question why? When arrangements for ticking boxes and fulfilling administrative requirements starts to actually stop me from doing real research as it did this week, I worry. 

The short, polite version of this story (that I can print here without fear of getting thrown out completely) is that following the first year we are asked to do a ‘transfer viva’ to progress from Mphil to PhD level. Now ignoring the fact that as I have an MA that involved sufficient research training the rules said I didn’t need said Mphil and could go straight to PhD and that other researchers in the school have done just that, the process of putting this together has been long and arduous. I spent the entire summer writing an introductory chapter which, while a useful exercise in academic writing and in expanding my theoretical understanding, will also have to be totally re-written before final submission as it was tailored to this process not the actual writing of the PhD.  Then there was the process of actually arranging a meeting for this viva which is where I lost it this week.
Now I’m not actually pointing any fingers of blame here-we’re all busy people and it is difficult to organise, and I’m used to people not paying attention to what I say because lets face it I’m a lowly PhD student. However I do resent that ultimately the scheduling of the meeting meant I almost lost out on going to the archives and conducting some research that is vital to the progression of the PhD. So basically a catch 22-you can’t progress without the viva (which you didn’t actually need) but by doing the viva you’re prevented from going and doing the research that will actually enable you to progress. 

While I’ve also been thinking about being stuck in PhD land this week I’ve also realised what doing a PhD does to friendships and relationships in your life this week and come to a similar conclusion. I’m old enough *cough* 27 *cough* that friends my age and a bit older I’ve accumulated are settled, in proper jobs, proper relationships by all accounts well on the way to being ‘grown ups’ (some more than others) other younger friends I’ve accumulated are still students, or in first jobs or generally working towards proper grown up land (again some more than others). The trouble is being a PhD student/lecturer I don’t fit into either category: the older more settled group don’t understand my lack of money, certainty about the future and odd working hours/patterns. The others understand the being broke, the odd working hours and general paralysing fear of not knowing what happens next, but don’t understand that for a certain amount of hours I’m ‘one of those proper grown ups’ with a fairly responsible job.  

 So just like the at present PhD you’re stuck,  you need both but neither understands everything and certainly neither group understands the other.  And sadly I see myself retreating further and further from my more settled friends because as the PhD progresses my life takes me further and further from theirs.

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