Mommy, PhD: Ice-cream and endings

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The day I dispatched my PhD I was, frankly, exhausted. It followed a week of nervous jangling with layout and photo resolution issues, a month of seemingly endless checks on the thesis text, three months of wrangling with my supervisor and six months of tying up empirical loose ends. Exactly as some friends predicted, I was completely depleted. I ‘celebrated’ with a huge glass of red wine and a bowl of ice-cream. Inebriated, and with an ice-cream headache, I slumped on the sofa and fell asleep in front of the TV. There was an anticlimax and a feeling of complete disorientation. Some lightness, yes, but also the realisation that while so much was completed, I now had the viva voce process to face. I wrote nervously to my supervisor: “what now?” My supervisor wrote back with hearty congratulations and some kind words but also a reminder that the process was far from over and that the viva could well throw up more revisions, and some months of work.
When would it end? Well, of course it wouldn’t ever really end. The day came when I called myself Dr Kane for the first time. A type of closure. The learning, understanding, expanding, growing, that very process that I had yearned for, in fact the reason I started the PhD in the first place – that hasn’t ended. I’m still doing that and, probably will still be doing that for some time to come. That was and is me.
The pushing, the proving, the tightening, the endless, endless, pulling together of a PhD? Yes, that ended. Hurray.
What are you looking forward to after your PhD?

Five reasons I’m glad I did a PhD

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Now that the PhD is finally done here are my tops five reasons why I’m glad I did it.
1. It scratched my “itch” in a way that nothing else could. It answered a yearning which I was worried could turn into a regret if I didn’t answer it. My PhD tries to answer a question that has bothered me ever since I arrived in South Africa in 1996 – why is road engineering here the way it is? The book which answered that question hadn’t been written and the PhD helped me write my answers to it. If my “itch” had been how to make the finest stroganoff or how much profit can be made in investment banking then a PhD wouldn’t have cut it. But for my itch, the PhD was the most sensible route, even though it looked to others like insanity.
2. It helped me prove something to myself. I’ve always been restless. I’ve been accused of being unable to fulfill long term goals. The PhD took seven years to compete. That dragon about me not being able to complete long term goals? Slayed.
3. I got to grow and learn and be stretched. Doing the PhD was a challenge. In practice it was far more of a challenge than I ever expected it to be, and I grew up. A lot.
4. It gave me a refuge. It was a place where, in the midst of mothering and all the giving that entailed I could be entirely selfish and self-directed. It was a space of freedom which liberated me from my circular, perfectionist fretting about whether I was a good enough mother. It allowed me to escape from teas with competitive uber-moms and to side-step all the mother-competition stuff. In the end I swapped the anxieties of mothering for other sorts of anxieties, but for the most part I don’t regret that time. And I do think I was a better mom, on the whole, for having made that choice.
5. Last but not least: eventually, it gave me a qualification. Which sometimes is useful, but less often than I imagined!
Why are studying? What are your reasons?
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