By Roseanna Doughty |
The second year of my PhD did not get off to the best of starts. Problems with my research questions meant that I have spent a good chunk of my time over-hauling my project and writing style to establish a clear focus. Not exactly the idyllic trips to archives and extended writing periods that I had imagined I would be occupying myself with. Now, on the other side of what felt like a somewhat mountainous bump in the PhD road, I can see how beneficial these months spent re-calibrating my research were. I have a much stronger project, a chapter I am happy with, a good framework for my next chapter and a clearer idea of where I am going with the PhD. But I could have done without the stress. At the risk of indulging too much in self-pity it suffices to say this was a pretty bleak period, peppered with many a tantrum.
One particularly turbulent week stands out however,- are you warming up those miniature violins???- the deadline was looming, I had found out I had a week to move out of my flat and find temporary accommodation, and then just because things couldn’t get any better I got an email informing me that I would be having a lesson observation. Trust my luck!
The lesson observation, however, went unexpectedly well. My students were a dream, they had done the work and there wasn’t a single awkward silence. It was a small victory but after a pretty hellish week I felt deservedly pleased with myself. Five minutes later, however, the frown lines were back because I still couldn’t get the paragraph that I’d been working on for a week to gel… And where was I going to get cardboard boxes from?? I realised then that I find it increasingly difficult to feel happy about what I have achieved. I just immediately start to worry about what is next. That conference paper won’t write itself, and there’s that archive material that needs to be sorted through and that article to read. And talking to other PhD candidates I know I’m not the only one.
You don’t need me to tell you that the PhD produces relatively few immediate achievements. Until we take that long walk to the submissions office we have relatively little to celebrate and even then I can imagine that it is all too easy to fall into worrying about what you will do next rather than taking the time to dwell on what you have achieved. But it is important to celebrate even our small achievements, if only to get some closure and help us effectively move on to the next task. So whatever you have achieved I encourage you to treat yourself to cake, indulge in some retail therapy or just do a little desk dance but make sure you allow yourself to feel duly happy about yourself because you sure as hell should do!
Now I am back on track and have had a bit a luck come my way with funding and other opportunities but I still need to work on letting myself celebrate. So next time something goes right I challenge you to do the desk dance boogie, if you look over at my desk in the corner hopefully I will be doing the same.
(Image 1: Caren Pilgrim Flickr Account)
Roseanna Doughty is Pubs and Publications Deputy Editor-in-Chief and researches media representations of the Troubles, 1969-1997, and their affect on the lived experiences of the Irish in Britain. You can find out more information about her through various social media outlets including Twitter, where her handle is @RoseannaJane, or her academia.edu page.