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.
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.
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
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
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…..
I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once – Jennifer Yane
Today I went to work to fill in for a colleague to help facilitate a ‘well-being’ session for our final year students who are currently on placement. The head of the uni counselling service came to talk to the students about dealing with stress, anxiety and perfectionism amongst other things whilst on placement.
It became apparently clear to me that many health science professionals, including our students, the future of the professions, are dealing with significant pressures- either self-imposed or perceived. Regardless of where they come from they feel real. The other thing that struck me is- we don’t talk about it. There’s a sense that it’s safer to keep quiet for fear of the consequences- for them failure on placement. The conversations I had with these wonderful students today inspired me, it made me realise I am on the right track with my PhD, there is a purpose to this. I hope for them that it will make a difference to our section of society, it may not win a Nobel prize but I hope that it will make a difference in some small way for future students.
So in amongst the shopping, the picking up my daughter from a friends because I couldn’t pick her up from kinder today because I was working, the cooking dinner, picking up my son from school, taking them to taekwondo and coming home and crashing, I had a bit of a lightbulb moment. We need to start speaking up about our fears, making it acceptable to make mistakes, if we don’t model this for our students then it becomes the norm to think that we have to aim for perfection. At the beginning of the day it felt like I had a million and one things to do, almost overwhelmingly so- I needed to do everything and do it right! As the day progressed and the lightbulb went on a few things slipped by the wayside- and you know what? The world did not stop, my family are all safe and well and I survived without any injuries!
Today also made me reflect back on two great books I read over the summer at the beginning of this year by Dr Brene Brown. I would recommend them to anyone. See her website by clicking on her name. Her TEDx talks are also well worth a look. So go out and “Dare Greatly” people!
We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face…we must do that which we think we cannot – Eleanor Roosevelt
So I have kind of worked out that this blogging lark is a bit self-indulgent but this is for me and I am trying not to feel guilty about that, after all this is MY PhD!
I think this quote encapsulates another reason I am on this PhD journey now. At work I was in a happy, comfortable place, where I felt competent (most of the time- I am a speech pathologist and suffer from Impostor syndrome quite severely) so stepping outside of my comfort zone was and is a challenge. There’s a tension for me between the drive and need to study to move on to something new and to stay where I am. A bit like giving up my comfy ugg boots for something perhaps better in the long run but certainly not as comfortable to start with!
This is absolutely a luxury and a privilege to be able to do this. I am lucky to have been awarded a scholarship, I can work for 8 hours a week (in a job that I love) and I have a funded research training place- how lucky and fortunate can a woman be?
So why then do I question if I can do this, I am intelligent enough? Last year I set up a session for my students with a counsellor from the Uni counselling service about managing stress whilst on placement. I looked back at his presentation this evening and found the quote above. It captures quite nicely and succinctly how I feel at the moment. I need to remember that I cannot do everything at once, to take one day at a time, to make time for my friends and family, to be outside, to feel the sun and rain on my face, feel the sand between my toes and go to the beach much more than I do now. Last night I went for a run, I hadn’t done that for quite some time- it felt good. Most of all I need to remind myself to go easy on myself. I will look fear in the face and try not to worry about what other people are thinking about me, and I will use that brain space for my PhD!
I have worked in academia for the last 8 and a bit years. For almost as long as this I have been thinking about doing a PhD. My ideas have been germinating for a long time. A very dear mentor once told me that the nagging idea I had would not go away until until I pursued my PhD. She was right. I wouldn’t call this my life’s work in any way but it is something that I am driven to do. The academic climate has changed significantly during the time I have worked in it. If I want to continue a career in academia then I need to do this, thankfully the drive and passion are there too!
So I now find myself at the start of month 4! I am fortunate enough to be doing this full-time and on a scholarship through the The University of Newcastle with wonderful supervisors. A lot of the literature I read before embarking on this journey talked about the importance of good supervisors, I know I am onto a winner here!
I’m also juggling this with two small children and a partner who are with me for the ride. So far so good. This blog will capture the highs and the lows of this path I am walking, it will sometimes be a brain dump, sometimes a rant, sometimes a reflection on where I am at or what decisions I have made and sometimes it will just be whatever it may be. I’ll aim to include links to useful tit bits that I have read and found along the way.