By Ruth Wagstaff
Today is the fifth Saturday in a row I have prepared for an “open house”. Yes, I am
selling my house; that humanly engineered cave that has protected me from the weather, that
has my belongings scattered around it, that has provided stability while I have raised my
children to adulthood, and that been my l’ttle haven for the last five years. Selling my house
is part of the sacrifice that I have made for higher level study.
As I walked away from the house and the real estate agent walked into it, I realised
that every PhD candidate has a sacrifice story. We all give something up to achieve a dream.
What each of us sacrifice is unique to ourselves. The struggle to give up becomes apparent to
each of us, to our families, to our friends, and to our colleagues and supervisors at different
stages of our PhD journey. How each of these networks responds to the struggle may even
determine the likelihood of completing the journey.
As I walked away from the house, I asked myself why does each PhD candidate have
to sacrifice? As I thought about it, I realised my Doctor friends tell me is that the PhD
journey changed them. Their findings did not change the world, but it did change their
world. These friends tell me that they learnt something about who they are, their priorities,
and their humanity. The doctorate was as much about personal growth as academic and
As I walked away, I wondered if the PhD was worth the sacrifice of my home. The
conclusion I reached was that no PhD was worth any sacrifice but the PhD journey is. A
PhD is not the testamur, the academic robes, or sitting with the academics at graduation. It is
about the personal changes, the realisation that I do not know it all, that I have a lifetime to
learn, and that I can be comfortable with me. It also about learning how to be an active and compassionate listener. I could learn all this by making other choices, but I have chosen a
I am sure that the stories of sacrifice will continue for as long as there are PhDs. Each
sacrifice will have its own personal meaning and inspire someone.. And when we put all our
stories together, there is a wealth of insight into the meaning of the PhD journey. At the end
of the journey, we will all contribute some unique and original piece of knowledge because
that is the nature of a doctorate. But in my opinion, at the end of the journey, each of us will
have learned something unique and original about ourselves, and that is what we will share
with the rest of world.
Next weekend will be the sixth open house. Maybe, a buyer will be amongst those
who inspect the house. Whatever happens, I am one more week into my journey–a journey
that will change my outlook forever. It is a journey that I do not take alone, because we all
make sacrifices and we all grow.