Now what?

now whatThe first time I watched Nemo, I couldn’t stop laughing when the fishes succeeded in escaping their fish jar, but found themselves in a sealed plastic bag, in the ocean, without being able to get out of the bag or without having any sense of destination. They look at each other and ask “now what?”. That is exactly my point!

It has been some time now, that instead of focusing on my research, I am spending my (precious) time on university procedures and forms. I understand the scope and aim of such procedures during a PhD research, up to the point that they are proven motivating and useful for the researcher in defining her topics, methodology and intentions. But, when this process takes too long, for no significant reason, it is just time and energy consuming. I feel I have been drifted away from my own interests, lost my perspective in an effort to write down what I am ‘expected’ to write, for the purposes of a specific application.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking and I am way behind on my schedule. What is even more annoying is that I can’t seem to find my way back. Suddenly, I am not quite sure what I am looking at, can’t really engage with reading because I don’t find the links to my research, every attempt to write down my notes becomes awkward and not productive. In other words, I don’t have a clue what I am doing or how to cope with that.

I try to resist these terrible moments of uncertainty by reading a bit more, without a purpose other than simply reading. Can that actually get you anywhere? Will that even be useful in the long run, or am I simply avoiding my own research? And, on top of that I am supposed to meet my supervisors in two weeks to discuss my progress. Wait. Come again. To discuss what? There is no progress. I was doing much better when I first started, with my enthusiasm and anticipation. Back then, I would have written 10.000 words for breakfast while right now I am not able to find a title.

That is why I tried finding a solution to my current state of mind by googling things like “how to write a thesis” and “how to structure your PhD”, only to understand for one more time that there are millions answers. The universal advice is keep on working, writing, trying…However true, not very helpful.

Then, I tried writing whatever comes to mind, with no censorship as they have advised me in so many PhD workshops. Newsflash: it’s not working. I am programmed to censor my writing and material and to expect some kind of structure even before writing. So, back to square one.

Frustrated as I am, I think that when writing and submitting PhDs, there should be an additional section where we would reflect on and acknowledge the procedure, so that it is crystal clear how one lives and works throughout the research.So, when another scholar tries to read your thesis (if anyone does eventually), it can be actually helpful.

However, I must admit that every time I acknowledge my difficulties in public, even without further discussing them, it helps me to move on. This negative exposure leads to positive results, as if letting everyone know you are in a difficult situation makes it easier to cope with. Quite egocentric but yet again I might not be the only one with this paradoxical mechanism. Maybe, this is another answer added to the millions out there about PhDs. You just have to let it go, before starting again. So, I ll just keep trying and see what comes up eventually.

Happy Easter everyone!