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PhB: Doctor of Baking

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.

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PhDs, Discipline and Lent

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

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2017 on BNi$

It’s a little over a month into 2017 and it has so far begun with a really strong sense of fresh, new start after a very intense end to last year. I suppose getting married and starting a new stage of adulthood has amplified this sense, but I digress…

This post is an official record of my writing goals and changes that I want to implement on this blog. It’s here because writing it down makes it real and will stand as a measure of progress.

Over the years this blog has been a travel log, rant-container, attempt at serious commentary, and random bits and pieces that have come out of my head.

I’m now doing a PhD, I’ve gotten married and it’s time to take the blog along a maturing process. I’m still going to discuss impolite dinner conversation topics of religion and politics together. But it’s going to be more disciplined, but still a more personal outlet to complement and enhance my professional writing.

Concretely turning that into action, I aim to:

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Updating the PhD Thing

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*…

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