By Megan King |
When I had the opportunity to work on campus regularly, working from home felt like a luxury. The routine of teaching face-to-face then returning to my shared office to attempt an afternoon researching and writing seemed dauting. Besides, there were too many people to chat with, my colleague was typing too quickly, the window beside my desk was too drafty, the students outside were walking to class too gleefully, the chocolates in the vending machine downstairs were too tempting. Working on campus meant that I had to walk down an entire flight of stairs to get to the bathroom. Filling up the kettle meant trekking down an entire hallway. More often than not, I even wore a dress and tights! Times were tough (so I thought). Editing in peace, in sweats, with my unwashed hair in a messy bun? And I can tackle the past week’s laundry at the same time? Heaven. Or at least it seemed that way until it became the norm.
After eight solid months of quarantining to the best of my ability, the whole #wfh thing has lost its shine. I’ve discovered that being alone with my own thoughts day in and day out is tiring, that brain fog is real, that cleaning my apartment is a major source of procrastination, and that not rationalizing a ‘self-care’ day of Netflix, ice cream, and a skin-purifying mud mask requires serious discipline. Suddenly, I would jump at the chance to speak to a human who isn’t obligated to engage in small talk with me while scanning my groceries, to hear my office mate’s rapid-fire writing, to absorb the brisk autumn breeze, to hear students enjoying their university experience, and to just buy that Snickers bar that’s likely been on my mind since 9:30am.
In the scheme of things, my day-to-day hasn’t changed that drastically. I’m still trudging along with my writing. I’m still able to continue in my roles as an hourly paid lecturer and ambassador for my university. I still text my friends and have game nights (virtually, but still!). I still have a loving and supportive partner and parents who are always just a phone call away. So, why I am stressed? I shouldn’t be stressed. I should be grateful that I’m able to stay home, stay safe, stay working on a subject that I adore, and stay connected to the people who mean the world to me. And I am, mostly. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not allowed to feel frustrated, overwhelmed, homesick for my family and friends in the States, restricted by a lack of access to archives, confined by my second-story flat, or any other pandemic-induced anxieties. Even Brené Brown says so, and if she’s not the voice of reason, then I’m not sure who is.
So, whether you’re on the home stretch of your PhD or whether you’re just starting out, please allow yourself a bit of grace in the current climate. Be kind and patient with yourself and with others. Make realistic to-do lists, so you’re not setting yourself up for failure and any accompanying negative self-talk. Set an hourly work timer, so if nothing else, you can at least pat yourself on the back for ignoring social media and attempting to PhD for a solid sixty minutes. Step away from your desk and move your body. Make sure you’re getting enough Vitamin D. Switch off from politics periodically. Take time to do the things that make you your happiest self. After all, PhDing is hard and isolating in the best of times, so why make it even harder on yourself?
Image: The Guardian
Megan King is a PhD candidate at the University of Kent, studying the process of radicalization in pre-Revolutionary America, and she serves as the Pubs and Publications social media coordinator. You can find further ramblings from her on Twitter.