My PhD

Today I am far, far closer to getting a PhD than I was yesterday. Last night, at 1:00 in the morning, I sat in the Postgraduate 24-hour Reading Room and printed my chapters for my exam next week. They’re a week late.

Also, my supervisor hasn’t seen them. I only realised this was a big deal when I announced to him that I’d submitted after the fact. He looked at me, kindly bewilderment in his eyes and asked when he’d get to see a copy. I wish I inspired something in people besides kindly bewilderment, but I rarely do.

I submitted the chapters without much fanfare. If there’d been someone in my office I would have insisted they take a photograph to mark the occasion, but there wasn’t. I walked into an office handed them over and chatted a bit about Jedward. And that was it.

When I do the actual oral exam, I’m going to demand a fanfare. And possibly a victory parade.

I was very stressed about the chapters. I hate what I’ve handed in. It’s festooned with square-bracketed comments saying what I intend to do with this or that section in the future. It’s amateur and awful and I hate it. I know if I asked anyone else in 2nd year of a PhD that they’d say it’s the same for them. But my arrogance is so impressive that I believe my badness is way worse than anyone else’s badness and no one can tell me otherwise.

My supervisor, who I’ve written about before, and is a wonderful man, came to me on Monday, on one of the many occasions that he passed me looking stressed. He said, “Just think how far you’ve come since this time last year.”

He’s right. I’ve come a million miles. I might actually get a PhD now. But is there any clearer way to say that what I’ve done isn’t great, than to say it’s better than when I had nothing done?

He’s seen me look stressed quite a few times over the last week. Getting these chapters submitted is only one of the things I’ve been doing for my PhD. The other is the last round of interviews I’m doing for my research.

Finishing the interviews has broken my heart. For months, the stories I heard from my interviewees populated my thoughts almost constantly. Their stories changed the way I look at the world and the way I look at myself. Those interviews were a big part of me. And now, they’re over.

I did a final interview with one participant on Monday. After he’d left, I started crying. And crying. And couldn’t stop. If you’ve ever been in the Arts Block in Trinity College, you’ll know that it’s a crappy place to cry. Crying should happen somewhere spectacular – maybe in a thunderstorm, or a cathedral, or a thunderstorm in a cathedral. Not on a corridor on the fourth floor of the Arts Block.

Eventually I regained my composure and went back to my desk. My supervisor saw the look on my face and said “I won’t ask you how you are.” I answered, “Not unless you want to see me cry.” I have never seen anyone move so fast. My supervisor bolted from the room at incredible speed.

It’s a week of goodbyes. And they’re all upsetting me. I’ve now had my final interviews with all my interviewees and I’ve cried after every one of them. Because I’m a big girl’s blouse. And I’ll update soon on the final few days with my boys.


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