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The PhD: the Passion, the Drama, the Real life La La Land

1. The Before

The first time you see this project, your heart misses a bit. Your friends told you this might not be a wise move, but you know better. That one could be perfect for you, you know it. But will you ever be good enough to convince the committee to give you a chance? You get all dolled up for the interview, it’s your one shot at showing your best qualities. You’ve already spent hours reading about it online, researching everything there is to know about the project. Stalking? Maybe a bit. You’ve been committed to this relationship long before it started.

2. The honeymoon phase

Your hopes are sky high. You were meant to be, that’s obvious. You’re so powered up, you could literally spend HOURS doing your PhD. And when you can’t do it, let’s face it, it’s never far from your thoughts. You find yourself enjoying spending time with other PhD students: they understand your passion. Plus you just love to talk about your PhD. All. The. Time.

3. The sweet routine

6 months. Life goes on. You definitely made the right choice with the PhD. Of course it takes time to adjust to each other, after all it’s a whole new experience. You’ve been involved in research projects before, but none of them was quite like this. You’re not afraid of planning far ahead. A conference abroad in 12 months time? You’re in! Your mind is buzzing with ideas. You’re a perfect match, you’re such a success. Everybody thinks what you’re doing is great. Would you be the new Power PhD Project?

4. The monotonous routine

2nd year. Somehow things feel different. Things are getting tougher. Things didn’t go quite as planned and now you’re thinking maybe you should have followed a different route with your PhD. There are highs and lows. Some days it feels more like averages and lows, you can’t remember the last high, and you can’t quite foresee when the next one will be. Your friends are moving on with their lives. They all seem to be on much more exciting journeys.

5. The love/hate phase

3rd year. Some days it sparkles: you’re getting stunning results, you’re at a fascinating conference, you’re getting really positive comments. Some days you just want to throw everything out the window, slam the door, book a one-way ticket for wherever, and never talk about research again. Until suddenly you get a single good result, that gives you hope once more, so you keep going. That’s not healthy and deep down you know it. There’s no way this could possibly turn out well. Your PhD is just being annoyingly needy. If you don’t work on it, it will just spend the entire day/evening texting your brain, and it makes you feel bad for not running one more analysis. The problem is, your PhD knows it is in a position of power. Of course, you won’t give up, you’ve already worked too much on this, you can’t just leave without anything to show for the last 2 years of your life. Maybe you try long distance for a bit. You spend some time apart, working on some side projects, like tutoring. And that helps! You’re going back to your PhD with a clearer mind.

6. That’s a warp

You’re done. F*ck it. You’ve talked about this with your supervisors, and they agree it’s time to submit. You pack up all your PhD’s stuff in a thesis, you get it bound, and you throw it on your teaching office’s board. You take some time off, to find yourself again. You finally have the time to read other books, learn about other stuff, other skills. You might even start some arts and crafts projects.

7. One last chat

It always ends that way. After some time has passed, your mind is clearer. You have one last serious conversation with your PhD. It lasts hours, and it asks you ridiculous questions about decisions you’ve made 3 years ago. Afterwards, your supervisors and your pals take out for post-viva drinks.

8. The next chapter

Oh, and after all, why not. Sure, after that long PhD relationship you swore to yourself: no more research. But let’s be honest, that little post-doc does seem super sweet…

***

You grow so much as a person during your PhD. Your PhD takes you to a whole new world, and shows you everything under a new light. Your PhD became what it now is thanks to you, and you became who you are thanks to it too.

A PhD is not perfect, and it won’t last forever. It will end, eventually. But before then, make the most of it, and love it as it deserves (meaning that when it is being a pain, feel free to hate it.)

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Love,

Bérengère