As I write this, I am sitting in the work room that I used day-in-day out for almost the duration of my Ph.D. studies. I’ve found that being back in the space in which I used to sit for seven or eight hours a day whilst writing my thesis has prompted some reflection in me. I’ve had some thoughts about the way in which my life has progressed since I clicked ‘save’ for the last time and sent my thesis to the printer.
The final few months of my thesis research passed in an absolute whirl. I chose to take a part-time job whilst I performed the final changes and polished-up my thesis. There was the practical consideration that I needed, and wanted, the money. However, there was also an intellectual decision that I wanted to tie a torniquet in the middle of the massive number of hours that I had to work on my thesis and cut some of them away so that the remaining ones were less intimidating. I’ve found that limiting your time restricts the amount of time that you spend procrastinating, ‘clicking around the internet’ and generally walking around doing other things. The temping job that I took was a photocopying and scanning job for a law firm, which was brain-numbing, repetitive, and so utterly conducive for creating “RARING TO GO” moments!
So, those months passed and, to cut a long story short, I had my thesis baby (congratulations me!) I was shot out into post-thesis wonderment. Well, it is a strange time and it seems as if your cannon was not quite powerful enough. Instead of shooting you straight over the finish line, you fall short into a strange limbo-land of pre-viva months. I was required to swan around for three whole months whilst my examiners read my thesis and prepared to question me about it. So, I took up another temping job and started counting down the days. For me, who enjoyed every second of my thesis research, from the tentative first supervision meeting, to my first conference paper, to getting the work ready to submit, the days and weeks following my submission were quite sad. I missed my little thesis baby and was not sure if I was ready to part with it. The only way that I could be sure was by having two of the ‘big kids’ in the academic playground tell me that they thought it was good enough to justify me getting the grown up title ‘Doctor’. Well, to trim another tale to its bare bones, my examiners liked my thesis and my viva was one of the best and most enjoyable days of my life. My tip for a viva: if you do find yourself enjoying it, sit back for a second or two, blink a couple of times, and think about how unique this day will be. But then remember to wake up and answer the rest of the questions. And then drink the champagne and go to bed at 9.30pm, like I did.
I was lucky enough to have secured a short postdoctoral research job soon after my viva, so I packed my bags and left the city in which I’d spend over three years in and moved somewhere else. Now THAT was when I came into my own. I could push my thesis into a little compartment and lock the door (ensuring that I kept the key, for when I wanted to re-open it in the future). The rest, as they say was history, and is the future (and will be a future blog post). For now, I’ve had my little moment of reflection and am about to leave the work room again. ‘Til another time, little work room!