Welcome to the Post-PhD World … At Last
I started studying for a PhD ten years ago, in February 2007. I was young(er), full of energy and optimism, felt like I could manage anything I set my mind to.
I was honest with myself (or so I told myself): doing a PhD in my thirties with a young family (we have four daughters) and a burgeoning working life would be a challenge, and doing the course part-time and via distance learning would add complications. Still, it’d be something special for me, scratching where I was itching, time for me at a stage in life when so much was for other people. And with some determination and a following wind I’d easily get it done in six years, surely. No problem. Seven, tops.
It’s taken me ten years.
Our youngest daughter was born just a few months after I started, in the April. She’s about to turn ten (of course!) and is preparing to move up to big school at the end of next year. She’s tall. She’s funny. She’s opinionated. She loves to act and sing. I never really conceived that it’d take me so long to get to the end of this darned PhD and she’d be so … well, grown up.
Where on earth did the time go? How did it take me so long?
In those ten years, my energy and enthusiasm for my study has, of course, been a bouncy castle of ups and downs, with numerous face-plants and tears when the big kids bounce too hard and won’t let me off. Mummy, I just want to get off!
In all those ups and downs, there’s been lots of things I’ve thought about doing instead, wished I could do instead, yearned to do instead. And there’s so many things I’ve looked forward to doing when I get to the end of my study.
The Wild Blue Yonder
When friends or family members have been free to travel to exotic places and come back with photos and stories of wonderful things, I’ve smiled and listened and said and ‘ooh!’ and ‘aah!’ in all the right places. But I want to go to Lake Como too. Or the Atlas Mountains. Or the Dolomites. Or Thailand. Or Fiji. I really want to go to Fiji. To be honest, a weekend trip to Bognor Regis would do me just fine.
I used to play the guitar when I was an undergrad. I played it loads. I still own two electric guitars (a gorgeous rosewood Fender Telecaster and a Gibson Les Paul Studio), two acoustic guitars, and a bass guitar. I never play now. My fingers don’t remember what to do. Everything’s covered in dust. My amplifier even has dust inside all the switches, so it crackles and squeals whenever I turn it on—even before I start playing.
I’ve always enjoyed sport and especially love cycling. All those long evenings sitting on the sofa, scribbling away at the final chapters of my thesis, eating snacks and drinking beer or wine to numb the yearning have taken a heavy toll on my fitness. I have a very high, extremely steep Alpine mountain to climb back towards any semblance of physical health and vitality.
Still, all is not lost.
Welcome, to the Post-PhD World
This blog is a catalogue of all the things I’ve yearned to do while I’ve been studying: those things that I’ve tried to do at the same time as studying, trying to kid myself that I had time and energy for both; those things I’ve wanted to do but put off; those bonkers ambitions I’ve told myself would just have to wait until after I’ve finished with the PhD.
The thesis is in. I’ve had my viva exam. I’ve made the corrections. It just needs to be accepted and then I can graduate in the floppy cap. (It’s called a bonnet. Yeah, a bonnet. 10 years for a bonnet. Worth all the effort.)
Welcome, future-Dr Baker, to the post-PhD world.