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Re-igniting the joy in my PhD

 

 

 

 

 

 

A spark of curiosity, a personal ambition and a desire to make a difference

That started my doctoral journey

A challenging day job, limited support, aging parents, aging myself!

These things threatened to wrap themselves around my ambition

My thirst to know more

 

Several years of training, thriving in the learning environment

Amazing support from inspirational, practical Professors

At times I felt I could take on the world

At others I felt I knew so little

Would I ever know enough to see this through!

 

Delight at passing milestones, receiving and accepting feedback

Sometimes tough to hear, always useful

Work became so hard, draining me, struggling to make the time needed

Family and friends kept me going,

And supervisors encouraging and cajoling when things were difficult.

 

A new job, amazing boss, fantastic team

Passionate about research

What can we do to help you do the best you can

What a difference

Now elated, I can do this.

 

Suddenly- all change, supervisors left, new team, different approach, new focus.

New direction on their suggestion

Struggling to make sense of the new ways, struggling to articulate my purpose

Defending my revised question – it didn’t feel authentic.

This isn’t right

 

No longer talking about this with the joy I always had

Is this just a glitch? Is it a symptom of the impact of the pandemic,

So many months behind closed doors shielding.

Asking the question of new supervisors – do you think I can do this?

No answer – now I’m ready to quit.

 

Not on my watch, my work colleague says

I can’t and won’t work in this way says I

Petulant at times, angry at others – I ‘d got so far

Now feeling sad that I won’t fulfil my ambition

My desire to make a difference

 

Not on my watch says a friend!

Think differently – why stay where you are

There are many more fish in the sea!

Moving Unis is not the done thing I am told

People here don’t transfer out of here I’m told – just watch me I think!

 

One email, a phone call, an explanation to an interested admissions office

An application in record time – an interview even quicker

A place offered and rapidly accepted

“We want to bring back the joy of learning for you.

What you are exploring is important, we think we can help guide you”

 

Welcomed on my 58th birthday, with cake and conversation

The Open University had been just that – open to accepting me and all my baggage

Open to doing things differently,

Helping me as an experienced practitioner bring my whole self to the programme

I started to feel that spark of joy again – too long absent

 

Original question valued by others, curiosity and challenge encouraged,

So back to the beginning, relearning those things previously told to forget

But the race is now on!

Twelve weeks until upgrade! A complete rethink, a complete rewrite in less than three months

But now wrapped in a cocoon of support, I think I can do this!

 

A fierce schedule, challenging deadlines, so much to do

But supervision sessions full of laughter, critical companionship and professional friendship too

Building my confidence back day by day, bringing me joy.

Rapid production, rapid turnaround, driven by knowing this is the right thing to do

I think I can do this!

 

The day is here, the upgrade viva, that thing that could be make or break for me

I think I’m ready but who knows?

I can’t get into the Teams meeting, I can’t share my slides once eventually in

I can’t understand that first question yet alone offer an articulate answer

But it’s all over quite quickly. Let’s wait and see.

 

Welcome back says the Chair of the panel

Recommending progression to PhD -congratulations

Oh my gosh I think and I think I said but can’t remember

Smiles all around. Useful comments about what else to think about

No corrections no amendments – I had only gone and done this.

 

The joy in learning has been returned to me

Joy enabled by friends and family who pushed me to to do the right thing

Joy enabled by an academic team who believe in me, and the importance of this study.

Joy which has kept my energy levels high on those early mornings and late nights

Joy which is here to stay.

 

 

 

 

About the author

Sarah is the Associate Director of Community Engagement & Experience at Solent NHS Trust. She's undertaking a PhD with the Open University on the impact of 'Suddenly Becoming A Carer'

 

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