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PhD waffling (p.s I'm not actually gay)

So what about this PhD then? where is it? why is it taking so long? Well your guess is as good as mine there dear reader. This blog isn't so much a where is the PhD but where is my head at.

Short answer? bloody miserable, fed up and willing to punch a wall.

Now of course the last few months/last year/whole damn thing shouldn't be easy. It shouldn't be easy academically ever, otherwise well everyone would have a PhD right? But that doesn't mean it has to be so damn hard. (wait that sounds like a Coldplay lyric)

So where am I right now? ah that is in fact the immortal question. Honestly? I don't know. I feel like, I can get this thing done but I feel like I will be held up by logistics and bureaucracy from here to who knows when.

And its the not knowing. Unlike any other course of study you take there is no finite ending to the PhD. My PGCE year was one of the most hellish I have ever spent but at least then I had the luxury of knowing 'Only 6 more months, only 3 more, only 2 more" etc. With the PhD it is constantly changing. One minute you'll be done in 6 months, the next the implication is never.

But here's the thing, I am done. I am so done with this life now. I am bored with the PhD itself. Not my broader topic area, which I still love,  but the tediousness of shaping the research into somebody else's idea of what it should be. I am bored of formatting, bored of shaping ideas into a standardised package to the point I can't even remember what my point was and I don't really care anymore. I am bored of adminstrative loops and banging my head against beuaracracy. None of this is exclusive to PhDs of course, but it's a pressure cooker of irritations that leaves my head and my eyes heavy.

And I'm so fed up with this lifestyle. Calling it a lifestyle makes it sound far better than it is. And I suppose it is a lifestyle in that I chose it, I know that,  but I hate it. I hate my life so much right now, I can honestly say that in many ways I have never been more miserable. I am sick of cobbling together barely any money from part time jobs. I am sick of working in the kind of jobs that get you shouted at by the public and treated like dirt. I am sick of thinking "10 years at University for this?" every day. I am sick of the massive juggling act that employment and PhD is. I have struggled through 3 1/2 years supporting myself (and paying full fees) and I just can't do it any more.  And as one more a "lark" than an "owl" I just can't function on working until late at night and being back at my computer by 8am attempting to work on the PhD.

I am incredibly lucky that the PhD has given me great friendships that would never have flourished or even existed otherwise. But I'm also sick of not having a real life. I want to be a grown up, I want to socialise in a grown up way. But hell scrap that, right now I'd settle for the freedom to socialise at all, but the massive juggling act of jobs and PhD means that's not possible. I either can't go places because I work evening or the combined PhD and financial guilt gets me and I can't let myself do anything. I missed New Years Eve this year, because I gave myself Christmas off.

So why do it? that's a question I've been asking. Never more than in the last year have I thought of walking away from something. I'm not a quitter. I've stuck out jobs that I've cried every day going to, I've stuck out other courses that I've hated passionately, knowing it would be worth it in the end. I've worked through parts of the PhD research that I thought were doomed and pointless (and some have been) but I've always stuck it out to the end. I even find it hard not to stick with a film until the end even if I hate it. But I seriously considered giving this up.

Because you start questioning, why am I doing this? what good is it going to do? where is this really going to get me? you then start wondering about all the missed opportunities both professional and personal. I turned down a job before Christmas, an honest to goodness dream job because I put the PhD first. I've lost count of the amount of times I've put the PhD first in both small and large ways over the last 3 1/2 years, in personal and professional circumstances. I've sacrificed relationships with friends, family and potential romantic endeavors (well regular readers of the blog will know how well they go anyway) and you start asking for what exactly?

For two letters in front of your name? for three letters after it? Don't get me wrong some days its the thought of that which keeps me going, a small vanity but enough. In my logical brain I know it will help career wise, that doors will open eventually. But when currently all doors are slamming in your face, it's hard to see that. No matter what the Mother Superior in 'The Sound of Music' says.

So that's where I'm at right now. I will keep plodding on, because really there's nothing else I can do. But every day I'm a whisper away from saying 'sod it all' and just going and getting on with my life. And I still don't quite know what stops me. The only thing I can see is stubbornness, and some far off dream that I always wanted to do this. Right now I can't quite remember why, but perhaps that isn't that important, perhaps that I almost have is the most important thing?

Sub blog: I'm not Gay!

Now let's end on a comical note, after all that angst and moaning. I feel like John Watson here, but I need to say once and for all to the Universe "I'm not gay!!" apparently four years in (and knowing me for a few more) my supervisors and many others are under the impression I must be gay, because I  am writing about gay men. Now firstly, oh great leap in logic, if I were gay and wanted to write about gay experience would I not choose to write about gay women's experience? secondly, just because I write about gay experience does not in fact make me gay. If I were writing about camels in the Sahara would that make me a camel? no. People also assume I must have AIDS too. I don't. Again, if I were writing about Legionnaires Disease would you assume I had Legionnaires Disease?

Underneath this there is a serious message about assumptions that really warrants longer analysis. However I wonder how many other PhD students have assumptions made about their personal lives based on their research choice?


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