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It's called 'research'

One of the things that has been increasingly annoying me over the last few weeks is people not understanding  what I do.

I don't mean what my thesis is (Lord knows I have days when I question that) and actually I was really pleased when a few weeks ago I was out to dinner with some friends I hadn't seen in a while and not one but a few of them not only remembered but had a pretty good grasp on what my thesis is on. So hooray for them-you made my week.

Other people struggle with the basic concept of 'I'm at University but I'm not an undergraduate' or 'I'm at University but I don't go to lectures' or just 'It's called research.'

The other aspect people don't grasp is therefore it isn't a 9-5 leave your work at the door kind of job. Its a work until you can't anymore or more often in my case work whenever you get the chance kind of arrangement. Research and more accurately the writing of it, particularly in the humanities doesn't lend itself to a particular schedule. Even researchers in other disciplines can't seem to understand this. I'm not crunching data and therefore coming into an office at 9 and leaving at 5 doesn't mean I get any work done. Neither does the fact I work from home mean I don't get any work done.

There's also the fact that with my other job at a theatre I work evenings. Funnily enough this means that I am not available at the drop of a hat for evening activities that 9-5 ers take for granted. And is it worth opening the can of worms that is 'she's 28 years old and has a part time job?' because yes, I'm 28 (well 27 and 3/4 if we want to get a bit Adrian Mole about it, but near enough) I do have a part time job, because guess what, education costs money. And a PhD costs rather a lot. 

Then there's of course the 'Well what are you going to do when you finally finish' with a derogatory sneer. Well hopefully use it is the answer, otherwise why would I bother. These people don't usually want an in-depth analysis of my career plans, and if they did they'd lose the sneer. I'm already paid to lecture (that's teach grownups in a University, well the occasional grown up I grant you) it's a proper job. It may only be part time for the moment but it's still a professional proper job.

On top of that, I'm not working at  the theatre I'm likely to be going to one too, this is also work. I research theatre, when I finish my PhD I hope to work either researching or somehow connected to theatre. Luckily most of my friends share this interest and are happy to tag along even to the most weird (and by weird read: God-awful) productions that I need to see.  Also the fact that I do work evenings means when I'm not I'm likely to have scheduled something for that night off, so no asking me the day before isn't likely to get a positive response. That said even if I'm not working or doing something I'm not sitting at home watching Eastenders (mainly because I never have in my life) but I'm working. 

Because that's the thing, if you're doing a PhD you are either a) working on it  b) thinking about working on it c) feeling guilty about not working on it or d) asleep (and lets face it probably dreaming about it). And while to some people my need to write a conference paper or finish a chapter might not seem pressing because I'm not in a normal office with a boss breathing down my neck, it's important because it's what I do, and it's basically for the moment who I am. 

So for those who are in my life all I ask is a little patience, which for the most part I get and I am so grateful for from my real friends. For those people who I see less often or run into from time to time a little attempt to understand would be great. And for those who sneer at me in the shoe aisle of M&S; screw you one day my post will come with 'Dr' in front of my name. 


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