In which your hero suffers from privileged white boy problems

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m the class rep for my group of PhDs. Mainly because I have a total hard-on for being involved. And because I’m still trying to recreate being nineteen.

Anyway, I’ve worked hard in this role, organising training events, organising social events, going to meetings, pushing funding applications, pushing conference attendance, pushing publications, sending out email newsletters.

Trinity recognises any students who do more than 20 hours of unpaid extra-curricular work per year with something called the “Dean of Students’ Roll of Honour”. It sounds very high-falutin, but all you have to do is fill in a one-page form and get another student/member of staff to sign it and send it off. About 700 students got it. Including me.

And it has kind of got out of hand. The reaction has been massive. The Head of the School wrote to me, CCing all the lecturers, saying that I had not only done the School proud, but I had also done my friends, my family and the college proud. She said I have a bright future. Another lecturer wrote to congratulate me, saying that it couldn’t have happened to a nicer bloke. He CCed in all the other staff too.

This was getting embarrassing. All I did was fill in a form. It wasn’t even a very long form. I rang my mother to tell her about the Roll of Honour and about what the Head of School had said about me. My mother had only one question, “Did you ask her for a job when she said that?”

I was working during the award ceremony, so I didn’t attend. A friend of mine was collecting my certificate. Three of the lecturers from the School attended. Including the Head.

Myself and one of the other PhD students have a page all of our own on the School website, celebrating our inclusion on the Roll of Honour.

Of course, I shared this page on Facebook, announcing that I was “rolling in all the honour”, thinking this was hilarious. But people started congratulating me. And they started going over the top too. I hastily tried to point out that it wasn’t a big deal. Within minutes of my saying this an old friend commented that it actually was a big deal and I should be proud. And then, a woman who I used to work with, but who I haven’t seen since about 2009, shared the link with all her friends saying “An ex-colleague of mine doing so well in Trinity College!”


I know Trinity College Dean of Students’ Roll of Honour sounds like something that you would be awarded for dragging injured soldiers through the mud of the Somme while under enemy fire, and it sounds impressive, but all I did was fill in a form. 700 people got it. I can’t imagine what you’d have to do not to get it. Sigh. But I’ll take the praise. #whiteboyproblems

Yesterday, I was speaking at the national Education Studies Conference in Athlone. I spent much of the day hiding from anyone who looked official as I couldn’t afford to pay the registration fee for the conference. This is doubly bad, as my own School were funding me to go and would refund the conference fee for me. I didn’t have the money to pay before being refunded two weeks later. What am I like?

I spoke and it all went well. I wasn’t arrested for non-payment of fees.

While in Athlone, I made the mistake of logging on to Grindr. This is never advisable in rural Ireland. Within seconds, so many elderly men had contacted me. I was fresh meat! None of them had face pictures on their profiles, half of them were probably married to women. Rural Grindr makes me sad. Even if I am more popular on rural Grindr than I am on Dublin Grindr.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m trying to get into mindfulness meditation. I have the meditations downloaded to my phone and I’m trying to do my meditation every day. I was taking the train back to Dublin from Athlone alone last night. I put in my headphones and closed my eyes. What better place to meditate than in a quiet train carriage. I don’t have to adopt the lotus position or chant or anything, so I shouldn’t look too weird. I calmed myself and started following the recording. The man has a soothing voice. He said “Remember that you are not on a journey. You’re not trying to get anywhere.” Except I was. I was on a train to Dublin. I had a fit of the giggles, which wasn’t conducive to meditating. Eventually, I had calmed myself enough and I was following the steps in the meditation, feeling pleasant and peaceful. And then a bag of money fell on my head. I was startled. One of the train attendants had been putting some of the supplies from the tea and coffee trolley on the rack above my head and had dropped a bag of money on me. I was fine, and she got her bag back.

Meditating on a train doesn’t work. #whiteboyproblems

Today I went into college and was half-working on my PhD, half-chatting to one of my PhD friends. He was looking for jobs and I decided to do the same. There are two (or maybe even three) jobs in the University of Limerick that I would be fairly qualified to do. This sent me completely into a tailspin. I got completely giddy.

To my PhD friend, it was blindingly obvious. Of course I should apply. There isn’t a single reason not to. Not one.

And it’s the obvious next step. You do a PhD and then you become a lecturer. It’s what you do.

And I like applying for stuff. I like application forms. And CVs. And interviews.

And I like universities. And I like students. And I like people who use big words and stroke their chins and get excited about ideas.

But no part of me wants to apply for these jobs. I don’t want to be a lecturer. Yes, I’d like to lecture. But no-one tells you that a busy lecturer does about six or seven hours of teaching a week. For twenty-two weeks a year. So lecturing is a relatively insignificant part of a lecturer’s job. If the rest of the time was spent working with students and in student services, I’d love that too. But no, the rest of the time is in research and admin. I have some fondness for admin work. And I like fieldwork and I like reading and I like writing. So I should like research, shouldn’t I? Well, I don’t.


I have been doing this PhD for four years. And I’ve only read two academic books from start to finish in that time. I haven’t read a single article from start to finish. They just don’t interest me. Just like when I was an undergrad and I did a law degree and I only read one case from start to finish in four years. That case was the Carbolic Smoke Ball case, which our Contract Law lecturer terrorised us into reading on the first day of my degree. Other than that, summaries were enough. I wish I was the kind of person who enjoyed reading this stuff, but I’m not. And the thought of being locked up in an office, spending days on end reading it kills my soul. And the thoughts of being constantly peer-reviewed, of being tested ALL the time, of having to constantly prove that you’ve read and understood everything depresses me. It’s like a life-long really vague exam. Why do people do it? At the conference in Athlone, I was talking to one of my PhD friends and to another PhD student from another college and they were saying that they had got used to reading difficult sociological/philosophical texts and that they felt they could read anything now. I don’t feel like that. They’re still really hard for me, because I still haven’t read that many of them. And I only partially want to understand them. I understand enough to get my PhD. I really don’t want to understand more than that. Also in Athlone, I witnessed a passionate argument about the ethics of using the impact factor of academic journals in making university hiring decisions. People were getting riled up. And I couldn’t begin to care.

I know some friends who are passionate about research. I know people who are genuinely changing the world through their academic work. I want to change the world too. I want to make it a better place too. But I don’t think I can cope with doing it in a university.

Everyone says I might as well apply for the lecturing jobs in Limerick. It’s not as if I’d even be sure to get an interview. I’m very much an early-career academic. And I can make a decision if and when I’m offered the job, but it’s better to try than never to know.

But what if I did? What if I got the job? I wouldn’t be able to turn it down. Nobody would understand turning it down in order to have my adventures. I can’t move to Limerick. That would be going backwards from Dublin. And I have promised myself too many times that I would give myself a chance to write my book after the PhD. Why would you finish a PhD only to take up a job that’s like a lifelong PhD, except you’d be doing two or three PhDs at the same time, all the time, until you’re sixty-seven? And to do that in Limerick? I’d end up buying a suburban house. And being a peer reviewer. And reading Durkheim. And arguing over office allocations, printer cartridges and module outlines. I can’t do it. I’d rather be an English teacher in Dublin than be a lecturer in Limerick. Even if that means just going back to what I was doing before the PhD. So I can’t apply, because I might get it. And I don’t want it. And if I took it, I’d only end up trying to break free at a later date.

I was so stressed about this leaving college today  that I literally couldn’t understand my audiobook as I walked home and I had to listen to music instead. My heart has been racing for the last ten hours. The future is terrifying me. I don’t know how I’ll make my mother (and, to a lesser extent, everyone else I know) understand that I don’t want a suburban house and Durkheim and module outlines. (Speaking of which, Easter and another all-night christening – my nephew – are coming up this week and I’m terrified. I hate Easter.)

If I don’t take time to try to be a writer now, I know I’ll regret it forever.

And I really do want to try to achieve some other aims. I genuinely want to be on stage. I WANT TO WEAR SEQUINS. I want to entertain. And I want to be on the fringes. I don’t want to have to be respectable and professional and a pillar of the community. I WANT TO WEAR SEQUINS. People think I’m joking when I say that I want to be a YouTube sensation, that I want to be Big in Japan, that I want to be the first Vegas Drag Queen with a Doctorate. I’m not joking.

I’m going against the grain. If I’m brave enough.  #whiteboyproblems

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