Contributed by Ciarán Wallace.
Do you consider your PhD to be a job or a vocation?
From a project it became a job, then an obsession and now it’s my life.
In 20 words or less, tell us why you decided to do a PhD: It’s worrying- I actually can’t remember why I started
Ciarán’s diary: The end is near. I’m working towards a submission date for my PhD thesis and everything else seems distinctly less important. I presume that is a natural reaction. The pressure of a final deadline certainly helps you focus – but it comes with its own drawbacks. Rewriting that dodgy paragraph or checking a footnote takes priority over (even basic) housework or meeting friends. Every day I fear that someone will call around for a coffee and then phone social services, or pest control, as they leave. As I would almost certainly be in the library (some library – any library!) when anybody might call by that tricky social situation is unlikely to arise. If it does – please ask the men in the white coats not to take me away until after my viva.
Family and friends have been fairly understanding actually. Some are even brave enough to tentatively ask ‘So how’s the work?’ The agonized minutes they spend gazing out through glazed eyes as I vent my latest frustration are important therapy for me. I need to make a note of all the coffees and drinks I should buy for people after I submit. An odd word that ‘submit’ – it conjures up an image of research students prostrating themselves before some vengeful deity. Then again you could argue that we’ve already submitted to the process long before we finish our theses.
Despite my fixation on this final stretch, some distractions do break through. The faint but worrying sound of last year’s crop of PhDs preparing job applications and funding proposals is difficult to block out. The accompanying mutter of disappointment as the rejection letters come back is quieter but, oddly, more insistent. Somewhere in the recesses of my brain is a post-it reminding me that after ‘The End’ is, hopefully, the sequel. (‘My Thesis II, The Revenge! Its back and its angry! Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the library!’)
Having spent three and a half years learning to dig a neat academic trench, I have to remember that at some stage I must raise my head and peer over the parapet. But it can be hard to concentrate on perfecting the thesis knowing that all the while you’re waiting for that whistle to blow sending you clambering over the top to charge into … well let’s hope the WWI metaphor stops there.