Is This Thing On?

Hello, dearest readers. I just wanted to give you an update and an explanation for my recent (virtual) disappearance.

As many of you know, I’m a PhD student at the University of Sunderland. While I’ve been fending off the dreaded imposter syndrome since day one, I finally had my research approved earlier last month.

For a brief moment, I felt on top of the world, capable and ready to dive into the world of academic research.

Only, the truth is, I immediately felt lost the second I ventured out on my own.

To this day, I constantly feel as though I’m not doing enough work even though, at this stage, there’s not an awful lot to be getting on with besides reading, reading and, you guessed it, a little more reading.

So, there’s that.

There’s also the feeling of isolation that comes with a PhD.

I knew it was coming, I was warned of it by my supervisor, but I wasn’t expecting it to hit so soon.

Damn, is it hard to realise that you have very few friends when you’re undertaking something like this. Naively, I expected my Uni friends to be the same people I tackled my undergraduate and masters degrees with, but people change, drift apart and evolve.

And that’s okay.

I’ve changed most of all, and for the better.

I’ve learned to move on from situations that force you to change who you are just to fit in. I’ve learned to seize opportunities on my own, rather than wait for the permission of other people. I’ve also learned that my empathy has been taken advantage of for too long.

So there I was, a newly-enlightened PhD student who was inspired and radiating the self-respect and determination necessary to embark on a doctoral degree.

Then, the real bombshell hit.

After receiving what felt like 1000 apologetic emails, I recently learned that 2/3rds of my supervisory team was soon going to be retired by the university.

It was truly a moment of: ‘I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed.’ And, boy, did I let them know it.

I knew something was up and knew that the very people that could have pre-warned about this happening chose not to. Self-preservation is a basic instinct, I respect that, but it’s amazing how many people will leave you high and dry when the right situation arises.

So not only do I bust my ass working a demanding part-time job during the week, trying to make ends meet, just so I might have the opportunity to take my final year off to focus on my research, I’ve also battled anxiety-fuelled self-loathing all year. Even after all this, I achieved what felt like the impossible in having my research approved…. only to have my team removed at the last minute.

Don’t get me wrong, the university’s plans for next year are fine and I accept their reasoning but it’s a little hard to accept that the world’s not against you when you’ve had a cascade of misfortune fire at you like a gatling gun.

So, I figured that I have two options:

I can cry, throw a tantrum, give up on the course and demand all the sympathy in the world.

While that has seemed appealing at times, I’ve never been one to give up so easily.

Or, I can see this for the opportunity it is:

I can take this turn of events and use it to my advantage.

I can make up for lost time in research limbo and present my new supervisors with a solid plan of action.

I can move on from people: life’s too short to please everyone, we all have our tribe out there and sticking with the same people, who don’t even like you (?!), out of fear of missing out is, quite frankly, a waste of time.

Kintsukuroi or ‘Golden Repair’: the Japanese art of mending broken things.

I’ve spent too damn long trying to be there for everyone while not giving an iota of respect to myself in the meantime.

I need to change my perspective. I’ve dealt with a lot in a short space of time, and the past year has been a steep learning curve, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Everything happens for a reason.

If I look back on the person who I was two years ago and the person I am now, there’s a stark difference. And really, at the heart of it all, I’m grateful.

So, yeah, that partly explains why I’ve been so distant, absent, whatever you want to call it… I mean I’ve even been (jokingly) accused of being dead, can you believe?!

I don’t deserve any sympathy; compared to some people’s experiences, my troubles are positively trivial.

Things are going to change, though.

I feel I’m in the midst of a quarter-life crisis. I’m either going to end up selling my possessions and travelling to a Tibetan monastery to find myself or complete my PhD with dignity, self-respect and stick it to the haters.

Either one will do.

Peace out.

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