2 years ago today, I ran 8 kilometres. It was an absolutely amazing day, during which my will championed over both my body and spirit in a way that had never happened before and hasn’t happened since. It was the crowning glory on a period of three months that saw me overhaul everything about my life. I came out to my parents. I kissed a man for the first time in four years. I discovered lots about myself. My blog’s readership exploded. It felt like everyone in the world was my friend. Perfect strangers were writing to me in excitement about my life. I collected all the data I needed for my PhD and I passed the continuation exam that marks the halfway point for the doctorate. I got a job as an Assistant Warden. I returned to work at the school that I had missed a lot for the three years I was away from it and exorcised some demons in the process. It was a magical time. And everything was going to be great.
And then, everything fell apart. I didn’t realise it was falling apart, but it was. I started gaining weight very fast. I planned to follow my 8K with a 10K and then I chickened out. I stopped running altogether. My phone was stolen. I had a disastrous summer with my flatmates, who I didn’t speak to out of bizarre social awkwardness and public-eating-related anxiety. I froze on my PhD. Froze bad.
Not everything was terrible. I made some disastrous attempts to meet men. I tried a few experiments in identity and image. I didn’t stop living. I organised events in college. I was a good assistant warden. I did my job at school well. I went to Russia. I went to Istanbul. I spoke at conferences. I didn’t freeze at everything. But I didn’t make a lot of progress.
And then 2014 came. And my promise to live life at 11.
And it’s been amazing. I lost two stone in January and started feeling so much more alive. Unfortunately, I’ve gained most of that back, but I’ve discovered mindfulness.
And with mindfulness I’ve gained a lot of peace and self-control. And the last few weeks have been hectic, so I haven’t been mindful with my eating at all, but I feel like I’ve found a magic key and once I get to know it well enough I’ll be so much better at self-control and focus and calmness.
One night recently, I was going insane with my PhD. I was sitting in bed sobbing crying, eating myself drunk, ready to phone a friend in the middle of the night because I was so stressed by my PhD. Eventually, I did some mindfulness meditation and I was able to bring myself back to Earth, to see things in proportion. It really is a gift. I’m getting so much more comfortable with an empty mind. I’m now able to wake up, get up, go to the toilet and take a shower before looking at my phone. I used to grab my phone and check my 4 email accounts, Facebook, Twitter and blog stats before getting out of bed. And my head was full of noise. I’m so much calmer now.
The other real difference is in my PhD. I’ve been working at a much better pace at it since January. And today I had a brilliant meeting with my supervisor.
He has now seen a draft of every chapter of my thesis other than the introduction and the conclusion. He told me today that he was excited about my work. He approves of the direction it’s going and he thinks that I will be able to get something rich and deep and useful from what I’ve written.
He was impressed by the fact that my work is so “raw” and is so revealing of my life and of my research participant’s life. It reminded him of a presentation he’d once seen on “Being naked in front of the academy”. He couldn’t remember the name of the presenter, so he googled the paper. The search “naked academy” did not give him the results he expected and he made a number of surprised noises at what the internet threw at him.
But it was the best meeting I’ve had with him. And he really understands my work much better now than ever before.
And I’m going to finish this PhD. I have a draft of every chapter. My supervisor and I have picked an internal examiner and an external examiner and have agreed a date for submission and have agreed a schedule for future drafts. I’m going to finish this PhD.
Unfortunately, as we were making final decisions today, we also had to make decisions about what to leave out. And it broke my heart to write to the Boys who I interviewed and now aren’t being included in the thesis. I learned from them all and I loved them all.
It’s not just the PhD that’s going well. I have hope in my life again. A little part of me is sad to be leaving Hall, but a much bigger part of me is excited. I also realised that I’m halfway through my loan repayments. At my last of many re-structurings of my loan, the summer I started my PhD, I owed the bank over €30,000. Now I owe them less than €15,000. The idea that I’ve managed to pay Bank of Ireland over €15 grand, while being a full-time student, is staggering.
And I’m excited to be off to Slovenia for the summer. And I’m excited about after the summer too. Yesterday I did an interview for a job in Vietnam, starting in September for 12 months. I’m on a short list of two. I still have my CV at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. And at a language school in San Diego. And I’m going to write my book. And my second book. And I’m going to fall in love. And I’m going to be fallen in love with. And I’m going to perform.
And all of my options are good. I have a qualification that will take me anywhere in the world. I am soon to have a PhD too. I am unencumbered by a mortgage, or by children. And I’m capable of turning it up to 11. Sometimes. All of my options are good.
I love 2014. I love the future.