By Susan Sharpe
I often ask myself why I enrolled in my PhD, what I am really doing and whether studying a PhD will change my life or other’s for the better. In such times, I find myself making lists, weighing options, lying awake all night, truly confused and sometimes doubting where I am heading. Two years gone and I do not feel that sense of purpose and sense of clarity I once had while writing my application. I feel stuck at the edge of my mind as I scroll through posts on social media or listen to my fellow students say, ‘It is a tough world!”
I struggle to understand this sense of loss – to understand why, after finally boarding what should feel like my ride to destination ‘Dream come true,’ my world seems out of sorts. Nothing is clear. Suddenly my sense of judgement and confidence, my hope, dreams and aspirations are crowded with such an unsettling speculation. ‘Will I make it? Will I not? When will it all make sense? When will I be at peace with this decision? What is the purpose? To what end? Why am I doing this? What was I thinking? – just a few of endless questions that swim through my head.
And as I regroup to re-frame my journey of inquiry, I see those faces, the ones I cannot accustom to. They show when I tell that I am studying my PhD. You should see these faces, on friends, colleagues, my bosses and all those who earn more money than me but have no postgraduate degrees. ‘You are crazy! You must be insane! I do not know how you do it!’ they say. Can’t say I blame them. After all, even in my day-to-day life and encounters, I feel like part of me is evolving and changing along with my doctoral journey.
Suddenly I feel this excitement about what I know, my topic, my literature review, and the passion to share it. What I could publish a paper or an article about what I have read so far. Perhaps that would help give me clarity. Where do I start from, who is my anchor? Suddenly I remember the stories of rejected drafts. Now I know why they say ‘It is a tough world.’ And as fear of the unknown engulfs me, I am suddenly reminded that it was never about landing a six figure job or a publication gig. That I may, for now, not be clear about my destination, but will one day. In a trice, a short spark of certitude, I know that in the middle of this PhD provoked equivocation about the future, I’m only experiencing my own very biased perception of this journey. This is especially obvious when I consider that I haven’t reached the destination yet.
Above all, I am certain that I am more than my PhD journey. I am not the degrees I have acquired or the one I am currently working toward. I don’t even have the desired research profile to land that dream job, but I am still me and it is up to me to chart my own path and remain my own advocate because I am me!