“Strength grows in the moments when you think you can’t go on, but you keep going anyway.”
Thanks Google for the inspirational quote!
This is going to be yet another “where have I been” type of blogs.
I realise I’ve been fairly absent from blogging for a few months, but I want to take this opportunity to update you all on what I’ve been doing, and as always, to impart some tips for others in the same boat – I know there are plenty of you!
Like many, I have been battling through the final few months of my PhD journey – how time has flown since I first introduced myself and talked about changing the world! The last few months have been absolutely ‘chock-a-block’ with writing up my final thesis, re-locating and moving house, not to mention starting a new (full-time) job. You can see why blogging has taken a back seat!
Rather than share how tough it’s been getting through this last push of the PhD, I want to give some positive points about how I’ve got through the last few months, and hopefully to encourage others, wherever you are in your PhD journey.
1. Have a change of scenery
A very practical tip for keeping motivated in writing (and keeping sane!) is changing the 4 walls in which you’re working. OK, so relocating to another part of the country in December was perhaps quite a dramatic change of scenery! But a different office to work in (courtesy of my mother-in-law) helped me get through the last week of writing that first draft!
Aside from that though, going to friend’s empty houses, taking a writing retreat to the countryside or the coast, or even spending a morning in Costa, have been crucial to keeping my mind fresh, reducing distractions and making me get up, dressed and out of the house!
2. Discipline and tenacity
If anyone asked me straight-up how I’ve kept going, I have to say there’s a level of sheer determination. I’ve described the experience as wading through tar or treacle: it’s really hard work. But basically the only option is to grit your teeth and push a bit harder! It WILL end, and nobody else can do the work for you!
That said… rest and self-care are of utmost importance! We would not expect our car to keep running on empty, and neither can we.
However much work there is to do, there always has to be time – even just one evening or an hour in the day – to stop and recharge. We all have different ways of doing this, but take time away from the computer screen, away from social media, away from work related conversations. Have a coffee, have a walk, go to the gym, have a bath, see a non-work related friend, watch trashy TV (I know for sure there have been times I can’t even focus on words in a book when my brain needs a break!), whatever it takes… but recharge those batteries!
4. Be honest with yourself
We’re all human, and none of us are infallible. A big lesson I’ve had to learn is to face myself – to deal with my naivity.
Moving house and geography, starting a new job, and trying to finish my PhD all at the same time was, in hindsight, not sensible! I did not acknowledge how tired I’d be in that first week of a new job – not just a new job but my first full-time job in 4 years. Then having to face working in the evenings, on my days off, and at the weekends – what was I thinking?!
5. God has carried me through
This one won’t be something you all relate to, but for me it is something I feel I can’t leave unmentioned. Being able to lean on my faith and relationship with God is the only way I have made it through.
At times when I’ve felt I just cannot go on I’ve received encouragement, energy, strength and motivation from God. One of my favourite verses which I had stuck up on my desk for a long time:
“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do no fear; I will help you” (Isaiah 41 v 13)
And so moving forwards from here…I still haven’t finished, I’m still pushing through the treacle, but I can honestly say I have no regrets!
I’ve seen people on Twitter complaining of the lack of opportunities after a PhD, even expressing regret for embarking on it. I still have a shred of positivity and belief inside me that this was a good idea and it will be worth it!
I didn’t have to get the PhD for my current role as a Team Lead Occupational Therapist, but I know I wouldn’t be approaching or doing the job in the same way without the experience of the PhD. I don’t think I’d even have applied for such a post at this point in my life if I hadn’t been doing the PhD. There is so much exciting opportunity, and support from higher management, to increase the research capacity in our services and to use my own work to influence Occupational Therapy interventions for people with dementia in our care.
I’m also realising my PhD is more than academia, it’s more than a career step: it’s been a huge part of forming who I am and how I cope with life moving forwards.
The rollercoaster ride is nearly over – but what do people always do once they’ve got off?
They queue up for the next ride!
I scare myself in saying that, I really do…