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.