Time stands still for no one…

I started this last night and finished it off as a reward for some work! I bargain easily with myself!

So tonight I’ve indulged in quite a lot of procrastination activities, which have included but were not limited to washing, Facebook, re-reading my blog posts AND realising that I have not written anything for over a year. Where has that year gone to? When I think about it I can’t really tell you, but it’s gone. Quickly.

My daughter is now at school, we’re almost half way through the year, I want to slow time down so I can appreciate this time more readily, in the present, without thinking about what activities are happening next week, next term or in term 4. I paid for their swimming lessons for term 4 the other day, always thinking ahead. I just want to slow down. My son is in grade 2, he loves his teacher, he feels like he won the lottery with her, which is great, I do too, for both my kids. I know how important good role models are, people you can trust, believe in, who believe in you. I have that with my supervisors but I’m always wondering when that moment will occur that they’ll ‘find me out’- ‘how did she ever get to be doing a PhD?’.

But I guess I AM doing a PhD, I am 2 years into it now, more time down than there is to go, all being well! Can it really be achievable? Can I really submit something resembling a doctoral thesis at the end of this? I am trying to write a journal article at the moment and I know I am self-sabotaging, I’m really good at that. I find ‘other’ things that I have to be doing for my studies, transcription, interviews, reflections, ethics variations, plus things that are not related like washing, washing, more washing and perhaps a little knitting and woodworking! All valid but all good excuses NOT to be writing this article, because deep down I question whether I can really do it.

I know I have wonderful, caring, loving people around me who will help me get there. People who have travelled this road and others who are still travelling the road. Friends and colleagues who know me, love me and will will me over the line when the chips are down. A friend is near that end point at the moment and she has created a ‘cheer squad’ wall in her office, she will get there, she is amazing, bright, articulate and focused. People have sent in photos, pictures, poems, quotes and a host of all other sorts of things which will bring her motivation when she needs it most in her darkest hours near the end of her PhD journey. I feel amazingly grateful to know people like this and to be a part of this community of people who are also travelling their own PhD journeys. I think half of this process is walking this path with others, holding their hands, listening to their stories, sharing tissues whilst you cry with each other (not the same one!) and learning something about yourself in the process.

What have I learned so far? That I want to provide a place and a voice for students who are the most vulnerable (the strugglers) in my PhD, that I feel vulnerable and scared much of the time, that sometimes I just have to acknowledge the feelings I have, notice them and watch them pass without acting impulsively. That I have something to add to society and the people around me. That one of the very few things I truly want for my children is for them to feel comfortable in their own skin, that they find people in their lives who are genuine, loving and caring who will watch out for them as they watch out for others.  That I can ask for help and my world will not fall apart, that others will give me that help freely. That each day I learn something new about someone or something. That each one of us has our own stuff we are dealing with, we never really know what is going on under the surface with another person. I know that if I listened to the part of me that is scared and vulnerable for much of time I would not really do anything, so sometimes I just need to do it anyway, because time stands still for no one…

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Work-life balance and the doctoral journey

When I logged into my blog to write this post I found a draft I started in December, which was meant to be a reflection of the first six months of my PhD candidature, I now find myself a year into it at the end of this week leaving that six monthly reflection hanging as too much other ‘stuff’ or life got in the way!

 

This week I will be the #RoCur for the @WeSpeechies handle on twitter, which is indeed an honour and pleasure to be doing and of course lots of fun! I’m doing this not because I profess to be an ‘expert’ PhD student but because I am travelling this road whilst doing life at the same time, it’s all part of the journey. I’m going to borrow from the #SLP2BChat now and use the nice analogy they used recently for their chat about ‘keeping plates spinning’. I have multiple plates that are constantly spinning, many often lose their momentum and look like they are going to fall off the stick, in fact some do! I am doing my PhD full-time by distance whilst working a day/week in academia and my partner (who works full-time) and I have two young children, one at school and one in kinder. Life is full to say the least!

 

But there’s more than one way to do a PhD and I am interested in how others navigate this journey whilst trying to maintain some balance in their lives, what sorts of things do you have to juggle and how do you do it? How do you attain that magical work-life balance whilst studying? I am interested to hear the experiences of all, whether your PhD journey was in the past and you now supervise others on their own path, if you’re currently on your own journey or actively thinking about starting your PhD journey. Mine was 7 years in the making, thinking out the logistics, timing, finances, topic, supervisors etc.

 

I love being a speech pathologist and I care about the profession and its future, hence the topic for my PhD which has a clinical education focus. Since commencing my candidature last year I have become more of an active Twitter user and have connected with other PhD scholars, past, present and future both in speech pathology and from other fields. I have found a wonderful resource in Twitter with fantastic individuals and great communities of support at my fingertips, which has in part helped me keep my plates spinning. A number of these I will refer to in my week as @WeSpeechies curator, such as @thesiswhisperer and @ThomsonPat who at times have posted great pieces about maintaining a work/life balance whilst doing a PhD. Two #SLPeeps who I have connected with in Twitter and have unbeknownst to them perhaps have provided me with great motivation and some of the best support are @speech_woman and @BronwynHemsley.- @WeSpeechies administrators. So it’s with great pleasure I enter into my week of curation of the @WeSpeechies handle to talk about all things related to balancing life and the PhD journey!

 

It’s nearly November…

Where did May, June, July, August, September and October go to? Please tell me! It seems that I have blinked and the time has disappeared. Next week I will be 6 months into my PhD. On the one hand I struggle to think about what I have done in those 6 months and on the other when I look at the files and folders in my PhD folder on my computer I know I have produced quite a lot of work. But the nice thing is it hasn’t felt like work to me, it’s been a joyous discovery, learning new things, developing new insights, changing my thoughts and opinions as I go. It’s been a privilege more than anything and a luxury.

What else has happened? Lots! More than I care or want to go into here or perhaps am ready to go into is more an accurate reflection of where I’m at. People told me doing a PhD was a life changing process, they were not wrong.

So today, 1 year after submitting my proposal and application to do a PhD, I received the wonderful email telling me my project had received ethics approval! I felt extremely happy to say the least. All the work of the last few months has paid off. Tonight I got to send out my ethically approved tweets to recruit for participants, and I have to say that was quite a kick. Especially to see my tweets get retweeted by colleagues I hold in high esteem and respect greatly, quite humbling really.

I had a stream of ideas for this post last night as I was falling to sleep and now they all seem to have flown the coop. My brain is fried and tired. A friend gave me free ticks to the movies tonight, I was planning on going but I cannot muster the energy. So I will make tea, put pjs on, and enjoy the feeling of seeing my PhD move forward. One step at a time, this journey will be a long one and I am sure will have some unexpected twists and turns but I AM looking forward to going wherever that maybe. Some days I have to remind myself that it is me that has to make my feet move one foot in front of the other and I am in control of that. I can choose which way my feet go, which fork in the road to take. Sometimes it’s hard to make that choice and not to want to look back, always wondering if you made the right choice, wondering what’s around the corner, what might have been around the corner on the other fork in the road. Oh decisions decisions!

So before October turns into November I will post this, put my pjs on and make tea.

Life goes on…

It’s school holidays and that means a bit of disruption to routine and life in general at home. Child No. 2 continues pretty much as normal apart from the half day of kinder but child care continues, thank goodness. Child No. 1’s needs however have to be catered for. This means a bit of disruption to my routine and productivity. What I have realised though is that the correlation between my productivity (or lack thereof) and school holidays is not as significant as I thought! I think it is perhaps a convenient excuse I have been willing to lean on when needed. Today is no exception, child no.1 is at the school holiday program and I am not being productive. No excuses! Some PhD reading has happened but not a lot of writing like I had hoped. I think I can be productive when focused but I guess I am just not focussed right now. One of my supervisors did say to me ‘some days you just have to say f*&#k it and go and do something else!’ My head is all over the place though, so I thought I would blog instead- the something else! It might help me realise what I have achieved in the last 2 weeks!

My ethics came back from the peer reviewer on Monday. By Monday evening it was fixed up and sent back to my primary supervisor, ready for signatures and submission, which is where it’s at now. A huge goal kicked. Some writing has happened and lots of thoughts about the confirmation presentation I have to do in December- it’s time to be more proactive about that I think and take some action very soon! It will not write itself!

I have also had a few days “off” i.e. not working during the day and doing reading in the evening. On Wednesday Nanna returned from a big overseas trip. H and I went to the airport to meet her on Wednesday morning. The look on his face when he saw his Nanna again was sheer delight! I have never seen him run so fast towards her, it was a magical moment for them both I think, and for me as the onlooker.  So yesterday we ventured into our city with Nanna and explored. I haven’t done that for a long time and it was a lovely thing to do with my children. We explored lane ways, walked along the river, watched a busker in Fed square, went out for lunch and caught the tram home. Southbank

Southbank

I love this city that I now call home, I like the nooks and crannies to explore, the lane ways, the people wandering the streets, the art galleries, the river, the beach close by. It was good to connect with it again. I will say this as I often do but I really do need to do more of it more often! Especially the beach part. I did intend to go to the beach this week, but it rained and H didn’t want to go out, so we stayed home.

Exploring lane ways

Exploring lane ways

Other things that have resonated with me recently seem to be revolving around human centredness, the complexity of life, connectedness and emotions. Some of this is PhD related stuff and some not. I was talking to someone who does ’emotions’ for a living this week and they said something that has stayed with me:- ’emotions are irrational, they don’t make sense, but they are your reality’. Very true, I am not sure whether I have worked out what that means in my world right now but in the mean time life does go on, PhD does go on and I will try and practice some self compassion. What I have realised though is I have achieved some goals in the last 2 weeks but life needs balance and school holidays are good for that.

The Yarra River

The Yarra River

PhD and life musings…

So since my last post I’ve had a short break, celebrated speech pathology week at work, submitted my ethics application for peer review and have continued to ride the rollercoaster of life! 

Speech pathology week, which was two weeks ago, was fairly monumental (it took up more of time than it should have (PhD time, shush!)). We managed to get some students involved in Twitter in an #SLP2Bchat. This was quite exciting, helping them get involved in the community of practice in Twitter. Raising awareness of the 1.1 million Australians with a communication problem was quite a buzz. One of the highs on the roller coaster ride! It reminded me of why I love my job and clinical education- working with the students. It also reinforced for me why I’m doing my PhD, which I think can only be a good thing! I work with some fantastic people and actually doing my PhD has freed up some head space to actually think in work, rather than feeling bogged down with tasks and administration. This semester I’m not teaching so I have some time to try and be innovative in preparing for my subject for semester 1 in 2014. This may seem like a small thing, but having headspace in this job is no mean feat! 

I then went away with the family to the snow for 5 days. Unfortunately we were all a bit sick, full of colds and run down. Was great to be in the mountain air though and the kids learnt to ski. Although the laptop came away with me (it didn’t completely sit in the corner for me to look at and feel guilty about) I didn’t spend my week working but I did do quite a bit of thinking and some useful reading. And, I came back feeling a bit refreshed and ready to tackle the finishing bits to the ethics application for the first part of my study. 

I remember attending a workshop run by Hugh Kearns from http://ithinkwell.com.au a year or so ago when I was preparing my PhD proposal and he talked about riding the PhD roller coaster, what I guess I didn’t realise at the time was that life has its own parallel roller coaster track running right next to the PhD one and the highs and the lows don’t necessarily coincide! How could I not have known this? Of course I probably did but just had not processed the reality of it until it hit me in the face like a wet fish! On Sunday after getting back from the snow the washing machine decided to leak all through the laundry, bathroom, study and into the dining room. A first world problem in the whole scheme of things but in the state of still feeling a little fragile from having a rotten cold, feeling a bit vulnerable generally, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry- so I did both! And then I rolled up the pj bottoms and mopped up! Fortunately a really good friend had ESP I think and called in the midst of my clean up and mopped me up too! Thank goodness for great friends. At the same time the PhD roller coaster track was on a fairly even keel, even rising slightly just ahead of the submission for peer review yesterday. 

So now my ethics has been submitted for peer review, whilst that’s been looked at before submission proper I have gone back to lit review writing. I’m trying to let go of any expectations I have or may put upon myself and just write to get my thoughts down on paper for now.

Letting go seems to be an issue in general for me, I spend too much time worrying about what other people will think, worrying about what regrets I might end up with, without any sound rationale for it. In her book, ‘Lean In’, Sheryl Sandberg talks about feeling so stressed and worried about a particular event without having any evidence for how people may have perceived her or the event. She says something along the lines of ‘How can I feel something that feels so real when the reality was actually the opposite of what I was feeling?’ I hear you Sheryl and I get this completely. I’m normally quite an intuitive person but right now I really think my compass and radar malfunctioning! I think for now I have to sit tight in the roller coaster car and hold on to my friend with ESP! As Forest Gump famously said- ‘Life is like a box of chocolates- you never know what ya gonna get!’ 

I think this post is a reflection of the roller coaster right now, so apologies for the randomness- it’s one of those posts I will remind myself is for me and my reflection! 

 

“3 red cars in a row made it quite a good day…..”

I often think of this quote from Mark Hadden’s “Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” when the day has gone well or the “….4 yellow cars made it a black day..” when it’s not been such a good day!  Anyway I’m not sure whether I did see 3 red cars in a row yesterday, I didn’t pay too much attention to be honest, but it was quite a good day! So what made it a good day?

Well I felt like I kicked some PhD goals yesterday (small as they might have been) I achieved something- I sent something off to my supervisors for feedback. I completed the first draft of my ethics application (what a steep but enjoyable learning curve that was) and that felt great. I engaged fully with my PhD yesterday and that felt good!

The other things that made it a good day was engaging with the wonderful people around me. I saw a friend who shared a story of embarrassment with me. We laughed together at her faux pas and it made me reflect, yet again, on Brene Brown’s work of vulnerability being linked to connection. As humans we all have a need to connect with others, to do that with meaning and authenticity we have to put ourselves out there and be vulnerable. It’s a risk but well worth it. Life would be less rich if we didn’t.

Today is another good day I think, I’ve had some ‘me-island-time’ this morning to have a coffee and be alone and now the tide is going out and it’s time to rejoin the mainland. My daughter has had a playdate with a kinder friend which involved being a UN peace negotiator and running a cafe!  But before I whinge any more about what I have to do for the rest of the day I will remind myself that I am extremely lucky, I have a wonderful family, I am healthy and I have the luxury of doing my PhD full-time with amazing support.

Have a good day and may you see 3 red cars in a row…..

Personal Milestones

Today is a personal milestone- I was born 41 years ago, I don’t feel it, I’m not sure how old I feel really. Having a birthday has made me think about how old I will be when I complete my PhD (more thinking than doing today!). I would really like to have it in the bag by the time I am 45, I think that’s realistic, barring any disasters! It’s also made me wonder what I’ll be doing in another 4 or 5 years time.

So I’m going to turn off the computer now and head home for a glass of something sparkly or two, I will put my feet up after the kids have gone to bed and I will watch crappy television without guilt and without feeling like I should be doing something else at the same time ,ok maybe I’ll knit at the same time, but not anything academic!