I’m a published author! Look! I wrote some stuff with the help of my supervisor, Dr. Liz van Acker. Wheeeeee! look at me, adulating all over the place.
I’ve been so snowed under with my PhD, and I’m actually enjoying the work, although, judging by this note I wrote on my phone a few months back, one would be forgiven for thinking otherwise.
What they won’t tell you about a PhD: you’re going to be poor and uncomfortable.
I get asked all the time, “are you smart?” Which is based on the assumption that to do a PhD, you need to be smart. I think it stems from the STEM fields (pun tottaly intended). If you’re going to create science things which are at the highest level of research, you want to be one clever cookie. But it takes more than smarts to get you over the finish line.
During the dark days of my undergrad thesis, I had many days where I thought I wouldn’t make it. My project was going pear-shaped because I was broke, from being a student for too long, and my marriage was up shit creek because marriage is hard work. Also, we’re still young and headstrong, so my husband and I have many jerk tendencies. And a thesis required time and energy. I just didn’t have enough to really care about relations or housework. All of which combined for many a perfect storm, and as a result, I have distinct memories of sobbing in the bathroom, having an existential crisis.
And no-one tell you this stuff. There is so much that you give up, for the hope of future success. I am broke as all hell right now. In the words of Trials, I gotta save up to be broke. Which is almost romantic. I mean, goon is cheep, and you can get a wheel of Brie for 3 bucks at the grocery store, but it also means never having any cash to pitch in for a round, to fly over to see friends get married (Sorry Nads!), to drive anywhere without thinking of your fuel consumption and most dramatically, it means things like the mortgage are just another world away. Which sounds like an overstatement, but when I see my friends with careers, kids, holidays and new Nikes, I really feel like I’m missing out. Just for once, I would like to purchase fuel and groceries without checking my measly bank balance first. I’d like to save up for that cruise, and I’d like to feel the satisfaction of paying the bills without argument or juggling. But all of that is on hold until I sort out the failings of western democracy and feminism. Which is the biggest challenge. No body tells you this big world problem that you’re trying to answer (whether it’s female genital mutilation or saving babies from cancer), the smaller problems like who lost the TV remote are bigger problems than what’s in your philosophy textbooks.
And don’t even get me started on how challenging this is from a gendered perspective. I mean, i known have it easy, being middle class & white, but if I get one more man trying to trick me about my topic, or tell me what the answer is, I’m going to go bat-shit crazy. Like for reals. When I hear ‘women just need to put them selves forward’ or ‘yeah, but they have kids’ it makes me want to pound things. Sure, we could all do with extra confidence. And it’s undeniable that women have children and biologically, they carry and sometimes nurse them, but having kids doesn’t impact men in the same way. It’s not even close. And I don’t know about you, but I’m yet to meet the Virgin Marry. In other words, men are part of the baby making process too, but it’s yet to hold them back from their career success. And that confidence myth ignores the structural inequalities which reinforce everyone’s place.
Bottom line: a PhD is far more challenging than the project itself. There are so many sacrifices that you have to throw out,
So there you have it folks. I’ve been buried in PhD land. Life is tough, even if you’re middle-class and white.