The floodgates have opened – week 42 as a PhD student

PhD Life

Note: this was written three months ago

The rains have come after three weeks, and it genuinely feels novel. Yes, rain feels novel in England; this is the first time in my almost twenty-eight years in residence that rain has felt like a gift. It is not a closely guarded secret that England is not a garden-of-Eden-esque summer paradise; although that is the image we give out in all of our media.





The rains have come, and it feels like a metaphor for my PhD. The threshold has been exceeded, and now it is a constant grinding run all the way to the end. Long gone are the days where I can wake up and do the bits of work I like, and now I have to dig in and do the work I have put off.

It has put off for a few reasons that main being that I don’t enjoy it, the second being that I am not good at it which affects my enjoyment of it. It is writing a scientific report. The practical reality is that I have to sum up all of the things I have been doing over the year in a format that I find hard to write for people that will never read it.

They will skim read it and use their judgement as to whether or not it is of the standard someone in my position should produce. By the time you read this, I will have undertaken the exam I need to take to progress. If I fail, you will know by the sudden drop off of PhD related posts, and if I pass you will see a few upbeat posts that slowly degrade back the mean over time. Plus, I will probably tell you as it would be one of the highlights.

The pressure of having to produce this report has focused my mind slightly; I have realised that I do too many things. I Wonder if you’re anything like me dear reader. I do a lot of different hobbies, and every few months one gets added, and one falls off the list.

The problem with this is that I have lost of things that I need to do each day so that I can please myself and feel as if I am moving forward. For example, I dance, I run, I lift weights, I blog, I read, I code, I play video games, I do yoga, and I have a girlfriend.

All of these things require varying amounts of dedicated time. I have realised that I need to go deeper into my hobbies rather than wider! I should get good at a few of them rather than keeping a bunch of different hobbies that is forever growing. I think if I had thought about this at the start of the year I would have never started a blog, as it takes a lot of time.

This week I have spent a lot of time in the lab doing mundane, boring, tedious activities that would have been interesting if I weren’t the one doing the work. A few years ago, seven actually, I was working in a warehouse hating my life wishing I was doing something I thought was meaningful.

Skip forward seven years, and now I am in a lab doing research that has not been done before and contributes to mankind’s greater knowledge, and I feel the same as I did seven years ago. It is all part of figuring out how to deal with life I suppose. For any of my older readers, do you feel as if you have life figured out? And at what age did you figure it out?

As the rains have come, it is time for me to get back to my first-world-middle-class-centre-left-metropilitan-elite problems.

Author: Louis

Spend less than you earn, Invest the surplus, avoid debt. Eat food, not too much, mostly plants

3 thoughts on “The floodgates have opened – week 42 as a PhD student”

  1. WARNING: Long comment/reply below

    I’m half a decade younger than you, so I’m not sure I qualify as an older reader. But here’s my two cents. I’m halfway through my master’s program and I empathize a lot with this post. I decided to go into statistics and figured I could help someone as an analyst. But do I want to check and double check and triple check data sets like I’m doing now? Not really, even though I know in my head that it will help someone in the future.

    I do feel relatively more secure in settling for this career path, though, but I wouldn’t say I have life figured out just yet. I’ve found this is work I’m somewhat better at doing compared to what I’ve tried before, but I feel more secure in what I’ve decided for my future because I decided I want to write stories, and having a stable income is one of the steps towards my being a successful writer. It has nothing to do with math, but it is a goal I believe in, and am determined to get to. I have no idea if I’ll achieve it, but this goal gives me purpose in moments when my degree doesn’t. I agree that maybe you should look into going deeper into fewer of your hobbies. You might find more focus and purpose in one of your hobbies when times are tough. Though don’t completely abandon your research. Who says we can only have one goal in life?

    Also, don’t underestimate yourself or your abilities. Everyone puts off the least pleasant elements of their work and research. Just a quick reminder that you’re a PhD student! And that’s amazing! To have gotten this far is a reflection of your discipline, intellect, and most of all, endurance. If finding a different purpose on the side doesn’t help, maybe you just need to remember what your original purpose entering the program was and see how close you are to your goal compared to where you started. Perhaps there are other steps you should be taking towards that original goal. This time of year is hard for all graduate students, and puts us all down. So I hope this helps and lifts your spirits, no matter the outcome. Don’t let whatever the results are affect your evaluation of yourself or your life. Instead, base your judgment on how far you’ve gotten and on how much you have helped others with your work–not just people you know, but the countless future researchers who will look at your lab’s work to base their studies off of. At the very least, your post helped me and others. Good luck to you and your endeavors, whatever they may be.


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