I have been debating inside myself what to do with this blog. I haven’t written it properly in ages – not that I was ever that consistent. The four months from Christmas to the end of April and the actual submission of my thesis were such a steep learning curve. There were also a family bereavement. Now I find myself just short of a fortnight away from my viva, and I’m really only emerging from the brain fog that accompanied the exhaustion of submission. It seems the interval between submission – 28th of April, and my viva – 26th of May, is one of the shortest known to academia, and I feel a little bit panicked that maybe it is too short. That I won’t be ready. That I have forgotten everything about my thesis. Indeed, I read it with some bewilderment now: did I really do all that work? Do I really know that much? Of course the short answer is that I did and I do. But how to get past my perennial self-doubts?
Today I attended a course within the university about women and academia, and it was really good. It was both positive and negative. Yes, there is a lot of evidence of the leaky pipe, how female participation in academia just leaks away the further up the scale you go; but there was also very postive messages about active participation, mentoring, how to progress. I had debated whether to attend this course. Yesterday I almost cancelled, concerned that it would draw too much time away from my viva prep, but it was actually quite inspiring. Because the truth is, I had been uncertain about whether I wanted to stay in academia; whether I wanted to do a postdoc. And there are some voices inside me whispering not to try. I’m forty nine years old. How can I be starting a career at this age? I will be competing against people half my age. Do I have the drive and energy for this? Added to these considerations, is that I really fell into this PhD. I hadn’t planned on starting a PhD at the ripe old age of 45.
However, now I am finally lifting my head to look around me and ask, what do I actually want and is it achievable? The short answer is, I don’t know. I think I am fundamentally disorientated by my experiences of the last decade, both good and bad. And I’m not sure how to proceed. I still have to get through my viva, of course. But today’s course gave me a bit of confidence that while these may be unchartered waters, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. I do think I need to take a little bit of time to think about the next stage. But the truth is, when I read my thesis, when I remember what I’ve found out, it’s still exciting. And there’s more work to be done. But there’s also more work to be done inside me. It’s a bit scarey, but not knowing where I’m going could actually be a good place to start.