Thursday, 18 August 2016

Captain Raz to Doctor Tonks: A Reflection


Way back in the mists of time (okay, like four years ago) when I switched this blog from being specifically about my PhD to being a more general blog, I spoke about the reasoning behind my tagline. Captain Raz to Doctor Tonks.

Captain Raz is one of my oldest nicknames; I think I’ve been using it fairly regularly since I was bout thirteen, fourteen. It’s my most often used internet handle (there you go, now it’s a bunch easier to find me online) and ended up being the domain name I bought for my blog. Tonks is the name I’ve been using for about nine years now. Most of my friends know me as Tonks, their parents know me as Tonks, my husband mostly calls me Tonks… its my name. The doctor part came from the fact I was pursuing a PhD.

Was. It’s done. It’s finished.

It’s a little odd to look at that tagline and know that I am Doctor Tonks now. I graduated last month. I got to wear the silly robes and the floppy hat and I have a shiny certificate from my university. It’s official. No one can take it away from me now.

Honestly, I never thought I’d get here. Whenever I imagined being on the other side of my PhD it was always in the context of failure; having dropped out because I couldn’t deal or my research was going nowhere or my supervisor thought I was stupid. I never really imagined I’d be sat on the other side having succeeded. That was a dream always slightly out of reach, something that was nice to imagine but wouldn’t ever be reality.

I’m not gonna lie; doing a PhD is hard. It was a long slog and there are honestly times when I thought it would kill me. When it nearly did kill me. It wrecked my mental health, but a strain on most of the rest of my life and had me in tears more time than I could count. I never felt good enough, never felt like I belonged in academia. I was convinced that the only way it would end was in failure.

And yet… here I am. I did my research, I wrote my thesis and submitted it. I sat my viva and somehow (unfathomably) didn’t make a tit of myself. My corrections went in and were accepted.

I graduated.



And now comes the great slump, the question of what happens next. People have been asking me that for months and the simple answer is: I have no idea.

I don’t want a career in academia, I’ve known that for a while. A PhD means I’m overqualified for a lot of things and don’t have the right experience for the rest. Do I regret doing it? No. I said when I was a kid I wanted to be a doctor one day and I managed it, even if not quite in the way I meant.

Ultimately I want to write, but that’s not something that happens over night. That’s a long term goal, and requires a hell of a lot of slog. Which is fine, I’m used to working hard for years in order to accomplish something I want.

In the meantime I’m investigating freelancing, and there may be part time employment in my future, I don’t know. I’m mostly just enjoying not doing a PhD while I can. And working on my writing.

Never fear, that’s happening.

It is reassuring to know that, no matter my goal, I am capable of achieving it. I will achieve it, eventually, I’ve proved that to myself.

Everything else is just life. I’ll take it as it comes.

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