In June 2016 me and my supervisors agreed that I should take an ‘interruption of studies’ for six months on the grounds of health and wellbeing. The reason being that I had stopped making any PhD progress in what was my third and final year. We wanted to try and break down the negative pattern of submitting pieces of work that were always incomplete or not quite making sense in terms of my research focus. My supervisors were confused and worried that my perfectionism was paralysing me, I was tired, frustrated and depressed, so we decided to stop and break the cycle in its tracks.
So now it is October and I only have 3 months left of my ‘sabbatical’ which is worrying me a bit because what if I am not ‘cured’ now, what if the same patterns return. But thankfully I am actually also looking forward to going back. I have decided to return part-time to take off the pressure and am putting other strategies in place which I may discuss in another post.
This break has had a little pattern of it’s own. First of all I love that delicious feeling of lying down and watching trash TV with no guilt. Or going on a day trip to Margate with no pressure to read an academic book on the train.
I enjoyed joining in briefly with the Pokemon Go! craze.
I have been playing in my band at fantastic summer events with no other stress apart from how to drain the huge puddles of water out of my pan.
However within this luxurious feeling I sometimes spend dark nights up late into the early hours (or as soon as I wake up, or just in the afternoon, any time really) feeling like a loser and my inner critic alter ego starts bullying me: “Other people I started with have finished or are close to finishing – you’re a loser”. “Other people have got some magnificent findings – your work is shit, you’re a loser”. “Other people are just all round better and more successful – you’re crap at everything and a loser”.
However coming out as a ‘loser’ has been quite good because lots of other people have also said they have had similar experiences. But you know what it’s like when you are feeling full of self-hatred, you only focus on the ‘other’ people you are envious of, not those others who are the same as you. It can take a whole day to get rid of my nasty alter ego voice. So days and days of my luxurious holiday feel wasted.
Much of my holiday has also been worrying about money. I am lucky to have savings and my mother is giving me pocket money for these 6 months (“you’re 36 and your mum is giving you pocket money, you’re a loser”). I now have to pay fees when I return as my ESRC funding has run out – another thing my inner critic likes to remind me of – ‘what a tosser you are, wasting all that time and money. Idiot loser.’
So most of this holiday has also been spent working or trying to find suitable work for when I return. I have been experiencing all sorts of casual jobs which has been useful in remembering that the PhD isn’t everything. I spent over a month doing some transcriptions which was interesting and reminded me of the work I used to do pre-PhD as a research assistant. But it also reminded me why people pay other people to do it.
Babysitting was fun but scary. I have limited child experience. I was worried her mother would be disaproving when she saw her 2 year old naked and covered in felt-tip pen (I like to let children be free!).
I am on a list of casual bar staff now too. I forgot how fabulous I am at customer service and banter with the general public, but I did not realise how much bar work results in getting alcohol all over yourself from head to toe. Also in a loud environment Fosters and Vodka sound exactly the same which results in some mixed up orders. However, I did see some very interesting patterns regarding the drink choices of different demographics (quick quiz – a punk’s fav tipple is: a) Red Stripe b) Newcastle brown OR c) Malibu and Pineapple – – – answer at the bottom of this post).
Tomorrow I have to get up at 6am (omg, I’ve been waking up at 10/11am (maybe later) for weeks now!) for the selection day for Royal Mail Christmas Temp job. That’s kind of being a magical Christmas Elf isn’t it? And I am also meeting someone at Luton Culture to discuss being on their casual bar and front of house team.
So I think things will all work out in the end. Once I get some jobs sorted, I am going to get back into PhD reading in the last few weeks of my sabbatical and hope I can kill the inner critic.
Final fun fact – Did you know Paul Willis of Learning to Labour fame used to sell icecream to fund his PhD – well, I am hoping to be a casual for Gelato Heaven during their peak summer season – it’s all a sign!
ANSWER – A punk’s favourite tipple is Red Stripe! Well done if you got it right. You win…. a can of Red Stripe!