There are just a few days left before I leave New Zealand for holidays in the US. Even though I have known about this trip for months, I find myself in these last few days faced with an impossibly long TO DO list that cannot be completed before departure. Some examples of the last minute items: conduct interviews, transcribe interviews, get business cards, finish chapter of social capital, clean flat, pack, etc… Now instead of crossing off items, I am trying to prioritise items which must be done before take-off. Not ideal, but I have a feeling that my sacred TO DO list will not seem quite so important once we land and I see the smiling faces of friends and family again for the first time in 3 years. Maybe that will be my New Year’s resolution, focus on what is important. Or I could just stick with my old standby, lose weight and go to the gym.
I am really enjoying my PhD at the moment – I mean really enjoying it. Like the laughing, smiling and occasionally snorting kind of enjoyment. I am trying to figure out why what last month was “the biggest mistake of my life” is suddenly one of my greatest sources of joy. Surely the ethics approval helped. Also, starting interviews has been fun. But even things that should be tedious like scheduling appointments, sending emails, filing documents and transcribing interviews is fun. It can’t be that I love to transcribe. It isn’t quick (takes heaps of time) or mindless (although, I can’t let myself think too much or I forget to type). It is just that I can find the joy within the activity.
In fact, it seems that I have decided that this is enjoyable and just like that it became enjoyable. Well if it is that easy to make my own reality, perhaps I should start making my own reality more often.
“Everything’s going so well!” (Harold Zidler, Moulin Rouge!) and then it went pear-shaped.
Unlike Zidler, I know that this feeling is probably short-lived and recognise that eventually things will probably turn to custard. I can live with that.
Having spent nearly the last 1 1/2 years, sitting in my office reading with little or no contact with people outside the university, I have finally started interviewing. Well it turns out that talking to people absolutely rocks and I may actually be enjoying my research now that I am interviewing. Who could have predicted that the thing that would save my research study was researching? (paraphrase – Michael Scott, The Office).
What a crazy world 😉
In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, I thought I’d remind myself that I have much to be thankful for from a postgraduate perspective.
- Doing what I love
- Living where I love
- Spending time with amazing people
- Having the flexibility to work when inspired and find inspiration when I am lacking
- Exercising my brain and occasionally my body
- Seeing the ocean as much as I want
- Seeing my family as much as I want
- Learning and teaching
- Knowing that someday I will be done with my PhD and will get paid to have this life
So, I guess this is day 2 and I am preparing for interviews next week. Besides scheduling appointments in my diary, I decided I should also dust off the interview questions and check them against my theoretical framework and research questions. I mean even though I am looking forward to getting out there for a chat with participants, I really don’t want to discover 6 months from now that I didn’t ask the right questions. Well, it isn’t quite as easy as I thought to ensure that I am asking the right questions and now I wish that I had started this a month ago and not a few days before interviews begin. Unfortunately, here I am and I’ll just need to make do. Maybe these first interviews will be my pilot? I guess this is a bit research ala Macgyver. Now what did I do with the duct tape and chewing gum?
Well, I guess that could be said about every day. However, I tend to think about it more after I have just sorted a milestone and now the excuses (from the last days of the first part of my life?!) no longer work. This feels like one of those times. I have spent the last month or two in a research funk – sick to death of literature review, but unable to start my empirical work until I received ethics approval from the university. For a good part of that time I completely disengaged from university life and started questioning (again) why I was doing this. Despite the downside to this phase of depression and self-doubt, the benefit was that I had an excuse for my lack of progress.
Usually I would be mourning the loss of a good excuse, but I am actually feeling quite optimistic about this new phase of my research. I think that is because part of my empirical research is conducting interviews which means that I actually get to talk to people. It is amazing how out of touch you can feel after spending months and months in an office reading. The thought of reconnecting with the people I am studying is actually making me feel a bit giddy.
This rest of my life thing promises to be much better than I feared. I no longer have images of Office Space, “So that means that every single day that you see me, that’s on the worst day of my life.” And now see that I this next phase of research might be filled with human contact, progress, and the joy(!) of learning. Wow!