How the PhD is going (seeing as this blog is supposed to be something about my life and doing a PhD and how doing a PhD has affected my life)… well here is an update! Part of the reason I hadn’t been blogging as much last month is that my fabric, yes the stuff I had been waiting for, for over a year, finally showed up! WOO HOO!
So I’ve finally started my experiments. We’re officially on day 11 of experiments. Of course, prior to the experiments there was a lot of preparation, a lot of wringing of hands and emails due to the fact that only 40% of the fabric we had ordered arrived… But now we have a full 50% of the fabric and apparently we’re going to make do. Welcome to a PhD folks. I get to eek out my specimens from a ludicrously tiny amount of fabric, re-use pieces of fabrics, start with big specimens and cut them down into small ones…
Welcome to research. Nothing ever goes your way. There are always delays. And then there are problems and more delays and more problems.
But at least I’m actually collecting data at this point so I feel as though I am making progress! Yay! It’s bad enough to put your life on hold (hello, 3-4 years of potential wages I won’t earn because I’m studying!). You actually become a slave to your research – nothing else matters. Only the data. Okay it’s not quite that bad yet but, if you’ve never done experiments, agonized over data, analysis and conclusions, formatted tables and documents and typed and mouse-clicked until you were certain you had carple-tunnel (yes, by the end of my master’s thesis I was left hand mousing it. No joke)… I hate to say it but if you’ve never done a thesis – you cannot understand. It’s one of those things (like childbirth, I suppose). And of course, there are variations between universities and departments and so truly almost no one has the same experience (except I was lucky enough to do a masters in my dept at the same time as 3 other amazing people so we had quite a support group).
The emotional ties – will the thesis be good enough? Oh it’s not good enough. Surely it’s good enough. No it’s not good enough… And then you get to the end, you’re an emotional trainwreck, mentally you barely function and in many cases physical changes take place as well (weight loss or gain, grey hairs, and where the hell did those wrinkles and worry lines come from? Surely I didn’t have those 6 months ago…).
And yet after the shitstorm that was writing a master’s thesis, I thought, yep! Sign me up again only this time make it hundreds of times worse. Don’t worry – we’re not there yet folks – not even close. No, so far the PhD has been a breeze but I know I will pay at the end… And I know it will be more difficult and more painful than anything else I have ever done in my entire life. Academia is kind of sick and twisted, when you think of it. A PhD is a quest for totally new knowledge. And how many people will read my thesis by the end? Maybe half a dozen. My 3 supervisors, and my 3 markers. Three or four years for something almost no one will read, or appreciate, much less understand.
This is what a PhD is.