I’m 112 in PhD Years: Exploring and accepting my fine Academic ‘Mess’

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‘I’m 25 in the rest of the world, but I’m about 48 in actress years. I’m just around the corner from my midlife crisis.’

Amber Heard cited in (CBS News, 2011)


I started my PhD a long time ago. A REALLY long time ago; David Cameron (remember him?) was still Prime Minister, the country was rioting, and the US had just killed Osama Bin Laden. I’ve come to realise that every PhD journey is an epic one, the late nights, the nagging doubts, the permanent and soul-destroying combination of inferiority complex and imposter syndrome; they’re all part of the price we pay (to say nothing of the actual price, as tuition fees continue to rise, the academic job market becomes ever more casualised and the prospect of every paying off one’s overdraft is almost as absurd as that of being able to buy a house!). Rant aside, I am aware that the ups and downs of doctoral research are almost universal to all of us who dare (are daft enough?) to wander here. That said, my journey has been an exceptionally long one. The nature of a (financially dictated) part time study, coupled with my long and complex history of mental illness has meant that (gods be willing!) I will undertake my viva nine years after I made that fateful decision to submit my application to study. Continue reading

Did a Bullet Journal Save My Life?

1-editedI have to admit that I was sceptical when a friend told me that she had been finding using a bullet journal really helpful. I’d seen one too many hispter-esque Pinterest posts and lifestyle articles proclaiming the miraculous properties of these little dotted page books, and there was something about all the hype that made it seem faddish to me; but, I was intrigued.


I tried to start last year and made numerous failed (and expensive at around £12 for a nice quality notebook) attempts. I couldn’t really get my head around what I was supposed to put in it, and found myself getting frustrated and thinking I’d ruined it each time I smudged the ink from my fancy black liner pens or written the wrong date somewhere.

However, like 99% of other people, I was determined to start 2018 in a different direction. 2017 had very much been about surviving THE break up, getting back on my feet and keeping keeping on; damage limitation. There is something about the start of a new calendar year, which despite it’s entirely arbitrary nature gives me a sense of renewed zeal and determination, so I found myself back on Amazon again perusing the myriad of available stationary offerings. I set aside a long weekend before I was due to return to work and study after the Christmas break to have some ‘me- time’ and focus on what I needed to do to improve my wellbeing and sense of fulfilment which has been quite severely lacking in the months previous. I bought in nice bath products and a face mask from lush and a few other pampering essentials and sat down to begin skimming through various ‘how to’ guides online for bullet journal ling. I’m not sure why, but something just clicked this time and I spent probably a couple of days getting everything set out. Thinking about and documenting my goals, the areas I wanted to work on, and the things about myself and my life that I wanted to try and appreciate more.

Well, what a difference it has made. The combination of journal-come-scrapbook-come-planner has really worked for me. Weekly and longer term goal tracking hand planning tasks and appointments ahead of time each week has helped me to stay more focussed, and spending some time each Sunday evening reflecting on, and writing about, the previous week has helped me to find a small amount of regular time to re-centre myself for the week ahead. I’m not sure why its working so well for me, and I’m pretty sure that its not for everyone, but I feel as though finding a way to plan and document my life which requires only a little amount of time each day has really helped. Maybe I just like the sense of ticking things off, or colouring in squares as I achieve each micro-step towards my goals, but for the first time that I can remember, I feel as though I have found a sustainable way of being a little kinder to myself whilst increasing my sense of health, happiness and wellbeing.

I’m getting more productive on the PhD front, am back to enjoying a busy but rewarding activist life and am making much better use of my down-time. No more three-day long Netflix binges. Instead, I am finding time for my hobbies, reading more, gaming and crafting again, cooking nutritious meals that are good for my body and soul, and discovering new music once more… and when I do catch up on my fave shows or watch a movie, I feel as though I am doing so more mindfully rather than just trying to pass the time. It’s funny too, how focusing gently on my goals is actually allowing me to enjoy the journey more and not obsess so much about the final destination. I’m less anxious because I feel more in control- of my time, my mind, my life and even my unruly body. I am gradually becoming the person that I want to be (or always was, but had lost sight of in the haze of poor mental health).

All of the above has contributed to an immense sense of wellness and a feeling of contentment that I am not used to. I find my thoughts are racing less, I’m more organised and have been experiencing significantly less intrusive thoughts from my ever present depressive mind. I think, for the first time ever, I am truly happy. Of course I have experienced joy throughout my life, but I’ve never really had a prolonged period of feeling calm, secure, fulfilled and content, and I like it.

All of the above said, I retain a cautious optimism. Past experiences have taught me to think of any chance of being content is only ever fleeting or cyclical. I keep waiting for the bottom to fall out again, or to fall (or more accurately, leap) off the wagon and to find myself back in the familiar arms of despair and hopelessness that have embraced me for so much of the last fifteen years of my life. I’m not silly enough to think that a fancy, leather bound notebook is in itself the key to this new sense of peace that I am enjoying, but I do think that it has helped me to discover new ways of being and doing things and to better carve out a life for myself that I actually want to live for.

 

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Returning to Azeroth

ITinkerspellst had been more than two years since I last logged in to my World of Warcraft account. I had enjoyed playing with my brother and my exe, but never made it all the way to the top – the best I ever managed was around level 51, but recently I’d been feeling the urge to get back into it so I bought myself a three month game card and went to see if I could still remember how to play!

Two weeks later, I’ve got a level 31 Gnome Mage (obviously) for solo play and a 22 Night Elf Mage for running with my brother and am definitely back in to it again… obsessively checking my auction lots and reading up on lore and everything! Continue reading