Roller-coaster

Life is a roller-coaster you've just got to ride itOne of the things that keeps hitting me is the roller-coaster of enthusiasm that you get from doing a PhD.  Before you start you’re fairly excited  then comes the induction and things kick off and you’re really enthused.  I certainly came out of my induction day raring to go, although slightly concerned I wasn’t quite sure where to go to!  So there was a bit of tapering off in the level of enthusiasm until I met my supervisors when it sorta peaked again.  And then away I went to read.  Every week I get the chance to bump into other PhDs on campus for the weekly Research Practice training course and philosophy module sessions, and that helps perk up the enthusiasm tank a bit more; but not quite as much as meeting with your supervisors.  There’s a vague interest from the other PhDs in what we’re each doing, but since we’re not really bonding on any deeper level (yet) it’s only a little boost.

Outside of this time when I’m working alone I’m enjoying my topic, but at the same time each day the enthusiasm tank gets a little lower, and each weekly PhD boost doesn’t take it quite as high.  The net result is over the three weeks or so I can feel overall my enthusiasm is tapering off more and more – rather like this highly scientific graph shows.

Now I have got a meeting booked with my supervisors at the end of next week so I’m hoping for a little enthusiasm boost.  Right now much as I’m still loving my subject and the PhD as a whole, it is getting a little harder each day to get back into it.  I think it’s partly down to those niggling worries at the back of my head that keep saying

  • “Am I still going in the right direction?”
  • “Is my topic really going to be sufficiently original?”
  • “Should I be doing something right now that I’m not?”
  • “Should I just read more books and paper today or should I sit down and plot out my research proposal more?”

They’re probably really silly questions, and I suspect when I look back in 6 months or so I’ll laugh at how naive I was about the whole process – of course it’s going to start slow and feel confusing for some time.  However, I keep looking at these deadlines for the draft research proposal and thinking “It’s not that long away until the end of March”; not to mention my College wants an early polished version by the end of January.  Right now I feel like I’ve not even glanced at my original research proposal that got me the place at NTU and that maybe just maybe I’m drifting away in the reading from where my focus should be.  It’s a little groundless as I did look at the proposal yesterday morning, but what I’ve not done is sat down with it and started hacking it apart a little in preparation to redraft it based on my research reading to date.

And all these little doubts and concerns they’re what eat away at that tank of enthusiasm, and maybe self-confidence too, and leave me a little unsure.  Not directionless, not rudderless but beginning to feel that I’m wandering off heading a little as I slide further and further down that roller-coaster…

It was interesting, although a bit unsettling, yesterday in-between the RPC sessions to hear quite a few of my class mates talking about their office space.  I know we’re from three colleges and a number of depts within them, but it doesn’t help to make one feel rather self-conscious when the following occurred shortly after I over heard this discussion:

  • Nice lady PhD student “Are you based on Clifton?”
  • Me “Erm, well yes, my department’s here obviously. (sounding a bit defensive and high-pitched) But I don’t have an office”
  • Nice lady “Oh, so you’re here at Clifton then?”
  • Me “Well some days, though I’m mostly based in my conservatory (cue nervous laughter)”

Yeah, just look at me cutting the rug of projecting self-confidence.  Please don’t remind me I’m a communication specialist anyone or I’ll have to go hide under a cushion or something!  And don’t get me started on the student who told me that he sees his supervisor every 2 weeks and he expects him to have produced a two page write-up of everything he’s done in that time.  My supervisor seems just pleased that I’m burying myself in the literature.  Maybe I should take that as a mark of his confidence in me and my abilities, but I do wonder if I’m quite as self-motivated as he assumes I am.

Right, enough navel gazing for today – I do need to go and do something constructive.  Think I’ll start by writing some brief notes on yesterday’s Philosophy lecture!

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