At the beginning of the year, I did something that I had been wanting to do for a long time… I quit Facebook.
A brief note between appointments to say that I made my deadline and the draft is not as terrible as I thought it looked when my nose was to the grindstone. I’ve still got some ways to go until my literature review is complete. Mostly reading about the ‘Post-Secular’ turn in International Relations.
I avoided the Dunce Cap and I am quite pleased. It forced me over a very important hurdle of writing something substantial. There is a paralysis that one gets when it hits them that they are writing a book and expose their thoughts, ideas and passions to an audience that will not always be kind. Its a real form of vulnerability that can be genuinely scary to face.
First, I know I have been slack with the writing on the blog. I’ve been buried in paper and Scrivener trying to force some momentum on the literature review now supplemented by an impending deadline. For it to be serious (or I won’t actually write anything) I’ve requested my supervisor enforce a consequence.
For most people who come into a PhD after taking a number of detours, that acceptance letter feels like a dream. You’re side-hustle, hobby and passion becomes a career.
This is an awesome feeling, it is a real sense of purpose and serenity, a sense that is sustained even in the midst of fits of self-doubt and frustration. But… when your hobby becomes your career that consumes your every waking moment, you’ve lost something too.
Hobbies are important. Leisure is essential to who we are as human beings. The more intellectual, abstract and pressured you’re day job is, the more you need a hobby that consists of manual labour, that uses your body and hands and generates a simple, tangible result.
This hobby also needs to be disconnected, i.e. non-involved in screens. This is not to say leisure cannot be found in things like video games or reading a novel on kindle, but for someone who reads and writes all day (mostly onscreen) my eyes and my mind need a break from the stimulation of the screen.
I’ve always loved being outside and gardening, but I live in an apartment with one small window box, so that is something that I will have to explore later down the track. What I have also been fascinated by is baking, especially bread.
Now that my hobby has become my career, I have instinctively begun exploring the art of baking bread. Baking is working really well for me because it is physical, it produces tangible results that I can eat, but it also requires being left alone.
The fact that I need to leave my dough to rise, means that, yes I can procrastinate by baking but, only for a little while. I have something to occupy my attention while my brain digests some reading. And then I need to let the yeast do its work and so I return to my work. I can fit it in around my reading and writing and it is something productive to do when my brain can’t take anymore.
As in life, my baking doesn’t always turn out the way I want it, but it is a different kind of learning, a different kind of creativity and reminds me that a PhD is a process and as abstract as it seems now, it will produce. In the mean time, I have bread to eat.
I am Catholic and like most Catholics, I try to observe Lent. Usually by giving something up. I have been pretty hardcore and lived on bread and water for 6 days a week the entirety of Lent (Sundays are a day off fasting as they are a ‘small Easter even during Lent). Like most Catholics, I struggle with it somewhere between Day Two and Forty with that sacrifice. I struggle with discipline many areas of my life and so what do I do, I choose to do a PhD that is made or broken on my self-discipline!
So, it’s the day after Ash Wednesday and I am combining my Lenten sacrifice with a positive and productive practice of self-discipline: A two hour block, five days a week, first thing in the morning of writing. If it doesn’t happen then, then as soon as possible that day. Two hours. No distractions. Just write.
I can tell you now, I’m not off to a great start. Ash Wednesday was a fight to get out of bed and get started. But every day is a chance to get back up and try again. Please pray for me this Lent. I will take all that I can get.
Picture Credit: Follower of Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516) The Battle between Carnival and Lent [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I have a grand habit of making commitments and… well… failing to keep them when I have a bad night’s sleep, I have have a LOT of washing to do, hormones start swinging or I’m just not in the mood. In fact, all goes well for a week and then the fall. Sometimes it’s slow motion, other times I ‘wake up’ on the floor wondering what happened.
Officially it has been one year and one month since I started my PhD. Lots has been going on since I began and thankfully, the process of writing the proposal has been enormously helpful in crystallising and controlling the scope of the thesis.
The proposal itself is off to the research committee for the final time after a round of revisions. I’m not forging ahead into the literature review with an eye to knocking down draft chapters between now and this time next year.
My investigation has been clarified from a vague notion of the “influence of the Vatican on the politics of Latin America” to… *drum roll*…
So this poor little space fell by the wayside for the last few months. Lots of things have been happening, and also not much has been happening too.
Things that have happened:
- I finished my Masters of International Relations!
- I have secured a place as a tutor at my university which is one step closer to forging a career in academia and extending myself drastically through teaching.
- We had a major flood down at our beloved property that has destroyed roads and made a major mess. When your average rainfall per annum is about 250 ml and then you get 300-350 ml IN ONE DAY, you got problems.
- I went to my very first academic conference, OCIS 2016 and academic symposium, which was all very exciting and inspiring.
- We had a really boring federal election. I should have made a drinking game out if it, it was so damn predictable.
- Something else exciting that I can’t reveal just yet…
Things that are still coming
- PhD proposal, due at the end of this month. *breathing heavily*
- Something else that is amazing and terrifying at the same time…
- Being responsible for the formation of tender first-year university student minds.
There are just those times in life, when everything that you have been working towards and dreaming about suddenly starts falling into place. If you have never had that feeling before, let me warn you, when it does happen, it happens all at once and very fast. That was something I was not quite anticipating.
Oh well… I’ve always loved roller coasters so I’m not going to complain when life becomes one! On the plus side, the whole feeling is hugely energising and I have lots of stuff marinating that needs to get on paper. So it will, here’s hoping.