The roller coaster of emotions has already begun. Really? This has been a hard pill to swallow. Don’t get me wrong, I’m aware that the PhD process is an intense one that can lead any one of us down a dark path from time to time. I just figured that this would happen a little bit further in (like when I’ve rightfully earned my self-pity). Truth be told, it’s the writing bit that sends shivers down my spine. Yes I know, writing is a big part of doing a PhD. This has not just occurred to me. When the writing happens and it’s good (in my estimation) it’s as though the planets align. I have a visceral response that manifests as a twinge in my eye sockets and butterflies in my belly, and not of the nervous kind. When the writing doesn’t come it can be frustrating, demoralising and like trying to run rocks through a sieve. On top of this, I’m not a speedy reader nor do I synthesize the information I’ve read very quickly. This makes things a little more challenging and, at times, anguishing.
The funny thing is I can’t seem to turn down any opportunity to write if it’s offered to me. In a way this doesn’t surprise me because I rather like engaging in a little competitive game of chance with myself. But signing on to yet another writing deadline seems crazy since I can easily lose a day on a single page of my literature review or a 250 word article. Times like these provoke my inner-writing critic but they can also cause me to question doing a PhD. Often when I’m lying in bed at night I wonder if this path I’ve chosen is the correct one. I wonder if I’m even smart enough, hungry enough, committed enough to do a PhD. Maybe I’m just trying to force a square peg through a round hole. If it was ‘meant to be’, wouldn’t I want nothing more but to jump right in to my work everyday? ‘Serious’ academics always come across to me as living and breathing this stuff. I have other interests, lots. And yes, most academics would say that it’s important to have other interests. But is it even possible…at least in the beginning? I imagine that after years of working as an academic it becomes easier to make time for it all. I’m not there yet.
My husband likes to play the devil’s advocate. Usually this drives me nuts but this time in an attempt to interrogate my self-doubt he played reverse-devil’s advocate. He asked me how I feel after I’ve come through the process of writing a major piece. In answering, I compared it to my experience of a Native American sweat lodge. If you know anything about it you know that it’s uncomfortably hot. Like a sauna on steroids. The purpose is to spiritually cleanse the body and mind. The experience is very intense. It verges on hallucinogenic. You emerge from the process feeling both exhausted and exhilarated and like you can literally take anything on. It’s a total rush and it’s also a triumph just to finish without losing your head, or your body for that matter. At least I think so since. Anyway, based on this explanation my husband pointed something out. If this path I’m on was so wrong then wouldn’t I just feel exhausted, that’s it. Yes, I think I would. Anyway, whose to know for sure. Maybe it’s the right path just because I say so and maybe I need to just go more with the flow. I do tend to over-think and over-worry about ab-so-lutely everything. All the while, days tick by and life goes on. There is little time to wallow especially when you you’re kind of slow-moving like me. So I’ll continue to juggle my self-doubt and perseverance, fear of the unknown and excited anticipation while I work away on the task(s) at-hand. It’s all part of this weird and wacky process of PhD-ing, and I’m in for the long haul.