It’s 9PM on a Monday, I’m in Canterbury for a Conference, and I’m Drinking Wine from the Bottle: 2nd Year PhD Retrospective

So it’s been a hot second since I’ve last written on this blog, for which I sincerely apologise – not that anyone is reading, but it does not show great discipline. The reason why I have been largely absent online is because I am currently nearing the end of the second year of my three-year PhD.

“So you’re almost done then, right?”

Well, to give you a taster of where I am at both emotionally and professionally at the moment: it’s 9PM on a Monday, I’m in Canterbury for a conference, and I’m drinking wine from the bottle*.

The unwritten rule for doing a PhD appears to be that it’s peaks and valleys – but mainly valleys. It’s hard, it’s horrible, and you smile mainly to hide the tired tears inside. At Cambridge (at least at the Faculty of Education), the first year is dedicated to writing your first year report, an exercise that essentially lets you prove that a) your project is achievable, and b) you have a rough idea of what it is you want to do with it. The second year, then, is when you start writing the actual thing and start writing articles for publication – this is because if you want to have a job at Oxbridge October 2019, you need to apply October 2018. And ain’t nobody going to hire you if you ain’t got no publications. (Also my supervisor will not write me a reference if I do not have “significant progress” towards my thesis, so I guess I will be moving away next year.)

This (academic) year has been very rough on me. In December I had my viva, I wrote an encyclopaedia article which was finished at the end of January, I wrote an article for publication for all of Lent term and half of Easter (which is way too much time to spend on it and it is still absolute rubbish and probably going to get rejected), did both international and national conferences, it was my first year teaching, and amidst all this my partner and I moved house and I thought “yeah, sure, committing to both rowing and choir sounds like a brilliant idea, I am great at prioritising and discipline”. I.e. my thesis got the short end of the stick.

A couple of weeks ago I received feedback on my first draft for a chapter with the message “you have wasted my time with this”, and it was not even the first time I have heard that from my supervisor. This time though, I did not cry.

Mum and dad, I know you’re probably (the only ones) reading this, and let me reassure you that I am fine, it is fine, and it is going to be fine.

Did I go about this year right?
Am I behind on work?
Do I panic every night and try desperately to figure out how on Earth I am supposed to finish on time, only to get heartburn and sleep deficit?
Oh yes.

BUT, and this is important: although none of the work I have done this year translated to words on the page for my thesis, it is all work that goes towards both it and publications, I still have plenty of enough time, my project is still cool and I am still in love with it (?), and in fact I have worked very hard this year thank you very much. I have met many wonderful and amazing new people, both academically and socially. This Thursday is the conference which I co-organised, which will be amazing and a great opportunity to hear and meet colleagues whom I have so far only encountered on the page. I think, I hope, I try to believe that I am doing fine.

It is actually interesting to analyse myself and my emotions for this year. Regarding work, I spend most of my time worried or sad, with brief blips of excitement about an accepted proposal or new project. Athletically, I set myself goals at the beginning of the year that I did not reach, which failure left me infinitely frustrated with myself. Socially, I have been very subdued and did not do much (although I did make a new friend who is very dear to me). Romantically, I am happier than I ever have been. On the whole, I think that I have been and am (mostly) happy, regardless of my professional self-flagellation. Maybe I am a masochist. Maybe it’s actually not all that bad. Maybe it’s Maybelline.

All I know is that it is July now, my supervisor wants a full draft come the end of December, and unless I find a magic lamp or my fairy godmother finally shows up, I am faced with an impossible challenge.


P.S. I am aiming to write more on this blog. It will be a nice change from academic writing whilst keeping up the practice!


* This sentence is intentionally written with a sense for the dramatic, the only reason I am enjoying my beverage like this is because my room does not have glasses and I refuse to purchase one.

One thought on “It’s 9PM on a Monday, I’m in Canterbury for a Conference, and I’m Drinking Wine from the Bottle: 2nd Year PhD Retrospective

  1. Oh dear. Am I the only one reading this. I doubt it. I’m sure you will manage it all. Can’t wait to be at the ceremony next year.


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