Thursday, 20 June 2013

Taking the Heat & Not Being Burned

I started this blog the day I started my PhD thesis. Apart from a rather long break in the middle when I was dreadfully sick, these two forms of writing have ran concurrently, each showing the best and the worst parts of me: a body of work that has been at times exciting and equal parts frustrating. When I started the thesis I thought I would be finished by now, then life got in the way.

Last week I had a meeting with my supervisors: two nicer and more knowledgeable academics you will not meet, but I knew that this meeting would not be good. A few days earlier I received comments back from the last chapter I submitted. Though I had been working on it nearly every day for three months, I was continuing to make the same structural mistakes that have dogged me throughout the writing process. Apparently its common for a postgrad student to encounter these problems. I have to rewrite the whole chapter again. The greater part of three months is now lost.

It is not easy listening to two people you respect so much methodically ripping apart three months of work. I sat, listened, asked lots of questions, took copious notes (using my memory) and copped all the legitimate criticism because that is what a good student does. At the conclusion of the meeting, they both said:

Although we have spent the past hour criticising your work, we acknowledge that you are supremely talented, you have an interesting project and we love working with you. You have taken our criticism extremely well, better than most and we know that you will respond with your best effort.

The last sentence is the kind of standard I set myself when responding to any negative situation. That is what my whole life has been about really: just plugging away when there is nothing else to do. It is how I have survived.

The big take away from the meeting is that I won't finish the PhD in August 2014. I don't know when it will be done. It might take an extra year, maybe two. I am grateful that I'm in a good place emotionally right now where I don't have to stress about deadlines, because other aspects of my life are going so well. The only thing left to do is to wonder which will come first. A completed PhD or a serious girlfriend? Maybe one day soon I'll be lucky enough to have both.

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