Contributed by Eamon Darcy of Trinity College Dublin
Do you consider your PhD to be a job or a vocation? It starts as a hobby that slowly consumes one’s life. The last year of my research has been incredibly strange. I left a pub one night as I had finally broken through a cloud of theory that overshadowed the last two chapters of my thesis. The jeers of “it must be love love love” still ring in my ears.
In 20 words or less, tell us why you decided to do a PhD? Money, fame, rock and roll. Need I go on?
Eamon’s Diary: Setting: Graduate Studies Office, after four years of solid research and writing. The time had finally come – submission. “You’ll receive a letter in due course detailing …”, I couldn’t focus, didn’t care, didn’t want to know. Yada Yada Yada. What was outside the window was much more interesting. “It is important to remember that you must …”, CHRIST! Get on with it. The “Ramp” (the main passage into the Trinity Arts Block – in reality it is a catwalk where undergrads, postgrads and staff alike strut their stuff) was offering an array of curious characters today; these specimens were far more interesting than the red tape I had to cut through just to submit four hundred and nine pages that have dominated my life since October 2005. School leavers on a reconnaissance mission awkwardly groping their way around their new college, the girl with the Ugh boots (pun intended) constantly checking her clothes and make up before her date arrives and the group of “lads” acting boisterously to impress members of the opposite sex who are not paying attention overtly, but aware of their presence. Sporadically, a malnourished, poorly-dressed and highly-stressed (aren’t we all?) postgrad scurries past. “Eamon, are you clear about what happens next?” “Can I go?” “Of course, but …”. I may have been congratulated, however, according to those who have already worn these shoes, they rarely do. I definitely did not walk away clutching a lollipop and donning a gold star with pride for all my efforts. This was just another day on Trinity campus.
In truth, submission was a strange anticlimactic experience. It is a step, not a final destination. To the staff in the Graduate Studies Office I was just another of the 5,000 postgrads in college. Essentially submission is a façade; lauded as a milestone event, it is in reality a temporary stay of execution. After my viva I will have corrections to do and if I decide to publish parts of my thesis this will probably require even more work. Editors, proof-readers, and colleagues will suggest other avenues to explore and with the following two months dedicated to ignoring the thesis I may come back with a whole new perspective. Plus, the BIG question is still there. The subterfuge, however, is not. “What are you going to do next?” I can no longer say that I will deal with that question “after the thesis”. For the moment, I can rest happily knowing that I cannot inflict any more damage to my work by fiddling with footnotes, screwing up syntax and punishing myself with punctuation.