Honestly? I’m struggling. There’s a reason I haven’t published a post for months. Oh, but I have been writing. There are 16 semi-complete drafts sitting quietly in the unlit yet-to-be-published cravasses of this blogspace, too scared to peek out into the daylight. What are those drafts scared of? Judgement? Incoherence? Falling short of the mark?
In some ways, my current 3rd-year-PhD-low is resemblant of those unfinished drafts. I want to be real here and admit that despite always writing about these fun and wonderful conferences I go and present my research at: no, it’s not all going swimmingly, and yes, I am struggling and yes, it is OK to struggle because we all go through these times of doubt and self-deprication and anxiety of what comes next. Or, rather, if anything will come next. Do I have to leap over some great void in order to continue on with “the rest of my life”? It kind of feels like the end of the road, coming to the end of your third year with very little to show for it. Like you’ve been cheating everyone you know – including yourself – into believing that you can do it, that you can get that doctorate, that you really really really want it. What if you suddenly find yourself questioning whether you ever wanted it in the first place? You know that you chose this field of research because it is an important issue and you inherently care about it to great depths. When I started university, I envisaged myself growing up to work with something to do with climate change or the environment; I have ended up in air quality research for now, which of course is very important (do I really need citations here?) and I do really care about the prospect of global progression to cleaner air in our lungs. I really, really do.
But sometimes… Sometimes I take one glance at the abhorrent stack of supervisor comments on the paper I am trying to write about some work I’ve done (okay, so I admit – I have done a measurable amount of research over the past three years) – and I get physical nausea. Like, I physically feel sick and want to give up. And then everything tumbles and my thoughts meander into all the other aspects of my life and coat everything in a thick layer of negativity. Thiccccc. As if because one aspect – the PhD – is standing on a slightly wobbly foot, everything else also wants to tip over. Or is it the other way round? Is the instability of my PhD reflective of the other turbulent aspects of my life?
Heck, I was onto something when I wrote that cheesy post ‘on why I do what I do’ over a year ago – and I quote here the great wisdom of none other than some omniscient version of the previous me: “if only for the purpose of a future opportunity to look back on such a post in times of frustration and sheer despair when things aren’t going so well“. Would you believe…
Anxiety comes and goes in waves, but lately it feels like permanent high tide at this side of the shore.