PhD Diary –4 Months down

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I’m almost four months into the land of PhD-dom now and am going to document the emotions which I have encountered. I know you don’t care but I’m doing it all the same. It’s for prosperity. Or ego. One of the two anyway.

Do you remember that bit in the original matrix when Neo is being made to jump between the two buildings? When all the characters are watching and saying “What if he makes the jump? What if he’s the One?”…“no-one ever makes their first jump”…“but what if he does?”…. I knew full well I wasn’t going to make the first jump but that’s what I pretty much spent the first few weeks going through. I think really, it was to block out the absolute failure I subconsciously expected. I had no illusions of grandeur or that everything was going to be golden and I’d buck the trend of agonising workload and destructive self-doubt that I’d been told to expect from those who had come before me. It might be a sign of my ego or it might be something everyone has, I don’t know. But the “I might just nail this” came ever so fleetingly on a few occasions, always bracketed in epic failure. During first PCR I did, the few seconds it took to warm up the gel dock (visualisation-thingy) and wait to see the inevitable awesome results that I had made were exhilarating, and only matched by the cataclysmic comedown when it didn’t work. (This was only compounded by the later realisation that I’d ballsed up within the first 30 minutes of the previous day and the rest was a rather futile experiment on expensive water).

The “It might all work out” was massively overshadowed by long phases of  “what the hell am I doing here?”, “I cant handle this!”, “I didn’t even have a proper interview!”,  “How did I scam my way into this?”.  Coming out of some of the early meetings with about 10% of the information floating around my head and 30% more in hastily scribbled, incomprehensible notes are not situations founded in confidence building. You’ll be glad to hear that the getting lost in meetings thing cleared up (on the whole!) with equal doses of reading up on stuff and the more obvious asking questions if you’ve lost the thread, the latter of which I had to have directly pointed out to me.

But plodding along brought some success. Small things worked out and I got somewhere. These led to bigger successes and more confidence in what I was doing. I think I’ve always been good at the keep-on-keeping-on, but the pyramid building of small successes bolstered my belief in it all being worth it. From slow beginnings I think I’ve now hit on a reasonable rate of things working out and intend to push it as much as I can.

So in day-to-day and minute-to-minute events, there are a lot of ups and downs. I spend most of my time at a computer and the thing has almost gone through the window on multiple occasions. I have big plans for cool stuff later in my project and I’m getting bogged down in the early stuff. Every second I spend not working I’m thinking about how I should be working (even whilst writing this) and I’ve woken up in the middle of the night on multiple occasions after a dream-experiment has failed or a deadline had been missed.

But the thing is I have not for one moment regretted the situation I’ve found myself in. I absolutely love what I do and there is honestly nothing else I’d rather be doing. I may complain, swear at the computer, bemoan having to get out of bed in the morning when it’s cold, but I would hate more than anything else to have it taken away from me, or to never have had it in the first place. A friend said recently that if it came to a choice between his girlfriend and his science, he’d choose the science. Whilst I cant comment on the integrity of that statement, I can totally relate to the sentiment. This is what I do and it’s what I intend to do for as long as I possibly can.

And that’s all I’ve got. I think I’ve finally settled into what I’m doing and I love it. I don’t really sleep or eat any more, but I wouldn’t swap it for the world. The last few months have been sinusoidal, with friends leaving this mortal coil and new ones entering mine. I’m 1/9th of the way through my PhD and so everything will probably change in time.

But for now, work’s ace and I wanted put that down on paper.

Dan

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