It’s who you know

I had a wonderful meeting with Heather Davis from the LH Martin Institute on Friday. I’ve taken so long to mention to post about it because I’ve been at PAX. She was amazing. She is smart, informed, connected, curious and honest. She gave me lots of leads to follow up on for my research but she did more than that, she supported my waning confidence.

Everyone talks about how confidence comes and goes in a PhD, but it is so real. This process isn’t about documents, interviews, process, methodology. It’s about me. I was worried about the originality thing again (at least I’m consistent in my doubts!) and she said “Don’t worry about that because what you will bring to your research is you. That’s what is original.” She’s right. It ties in with what Joelle said about not wearing the jumper with your research theory (see previous post). Research is about who you are as a person. That’s why academics take the criticism personally. It’s not a debate of ideas and discussion, it’s a debate about their very identity.

Perhaps the role of honesty. If you’re honest about your identity in your research you can set aside that aspect and return to discussion of the issues. Heather and I talked about a range of issues in higher education but we did so expressing why we thought what we did. We were honest and explicit about our backgrounds and what brought us to the thoughts we had. Of course, this takes a high degree of self awareness and confidence. I feel privileged that Heather shared her thoughts and I feel more confidence from her words of wisdom. But most of all I feel lucky to have felt her honesty.

I posted previously about thanking people for putting me back on track, I think I need a new tag because it’s the people I know who are going to get me through the doubting days. I thank you all now (even though I don’t know who you are, and neither do you – yet!).

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