despair

Living the nightmare of perception

It is evident in my last few posts I’ve really not been working on my thesis enough and this week I worked out why. Unfortunately I didn’t come to a mature, reasoned position. It came to me while basically throwing a tantrum. Truth often appears in anger, and boy did it this week!

It turns out I really hate the way I am treated as a student. I’ve complained about part time before (Colloquium Write Up – July 2017 and Back in the saddle – apparently) well I’m going to complain again. It is just awful. All support and training events are held in work time slots so I can never go. It is really isolating and depressing. Especially when only a couple of months ago I attended a focus group (where only two people turned up) asking what support HDR students needed and Paula and I both stated how much part time students, or student with work commitments, needed events on after hours.

Additionally, in my last post when I expressed the idea of support and how it’s a complex thing and I wasn’t sure why students and academics seemed to be not supporting one another as much as I think they could (How’s it going?) two things happened.

  1. A friend on FB posted a response I thought was a little loaded in language as he’d called the 3MT “an embarrassing gimmick” and when I pointed this out he became so incensed he has de-friended me and removed the conversation we were having. See, I thought it was a conversation about the use of language, he thought it was about being attacked.
  2. Coincidentally, there came a barrage of advertising through email and twitter about me going to support members of the faulty competing in the pitch for funds. This made me a little annoyed as the 3MT had not been advertised or supported by the faculty.

Both of these events are about perception. I perceived the advertising as negative because “why didn’t the 3MT get the same support Wha!” (yes I know this a petty and childish perception, but it was my perception) and I perceived a conversation, a debate on FB, not a range of personal attacks.

All of this leads me to this week and how I’m sick of how I’m treated as a student. It’s about perception. I perceive the university doesn’t actually support my research. I research about how bad universities are these days, how it’s all about the money, and then I live it. I am not ever going to make money for the university and I’m costing them as a part time student because I want things out of hours and this costs more, so resources cannot be wasted on me. Worse, my perception of what personal support looks like from a supervisor is totally different to the perception of my supervisor. Although this has occurred before (It’s all about perspective) he and I never really addressed how to engage with one another as people and this week at a meeting I realised it was never going to work. It’s not his fault, it’s not mine. It just is.

We are two different people who are quite simply too different in how we engage with others. This leads to meetings where I feel stupid and he feels like progress has occurred. Progress has not happened from my perspective for twelve months. I am no further this time this year than I was this time last year except I really like Natalie at the House of Representatives.

This is why I’m living the nightmare. I’m living what I research – students are treated well when they make you money and treated badly when they don’t – and I’m living the PhD nightmare – the unproductive supervisor relationship.

All of this leads to ‘what now?’. Well, change. That’s where it leads. I have done some investigation on how to change universities. Everywhere else may be just as bad, but I think I’d like to try a different devil because the one I know is just too hard.

One amazing outcome from my tantrum, was someone gave me their perspective on the situation, “It can’t be all bad” and he was right. Being a sessional tutor at my university, and its college, is amazing. I am supported in my teaching, in the administrative process to get paid, the way I can get access to various sources and generally I have had the honour to work with some incredibly intuitive academics.  They are intuitive because they sense when the students need more or less support and because they alter their teaching approaches based on success or failure, not just year to year but moment to moment in tutorials. I am so lucky to have worked and currently work, with these people.

Well, at least that’s my perception. Their perception may be something entirely different.

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Walking a different path

Won’t lie, it’s been a tough couple of weeks. But this morning, in the shower, there was clarity. (Often is – not sure why showers are good thinking time, but they totally are!)

People do PhD’s to become academics. To show the world their smarts. The issue in my research I am finding is the ‘dumbing down’ of all levels of academia so a PhD is no longer really showing your smarts, it really is just a gateway piece of paper to be an academic. So that means anyone gets in now. And recently that has annoyed me as I feel like I’m working so hard, and all I really needed to do was become a favourite of faculty management. Apparently they would have enrolled me, regardless of my ability, and would no doubt support me in such an active fashion I couldn’t possibly fail. This annoys me because it devalues my work.

Then I thought, no. People like that aren’t going to have the full experience of the PhD because they are people who always take the easy road. They aren’t going to grasp the full details or implications of their research. They are going to do what they have to and take the piece of paper, the prize at the end. They are not a giver to society now, and they won’t be a giver just because they have a PhD.

You see, for me a PhD is about giving. Research is how we advance society and my PhD is about trying to address issues in university education. I won’t be an academic (they work way too hard). But I will have a license to publish more research. I will have a piece of paper to show the world I’m allowed to be out there with my position on a topic. I want to give in a way that people might just listen, rather than me just being another person with an opinion.

I had dinner with two academics last week and the conversation we could have about society, and concepts, and how their own research changes them and others in unexpected ways. That’s what givers can do. They can change the world.

So, I need to let go of what I think about other people. I need to let go of a concept of ‘value’ in the work I do and how it compares to that of others. I just need to work, do my thesis my way, show what the research shows in a way my dad can understand, and then keep researching and writing, so maybe I can change the world – just a little.

The sociopaths, psychopaths and narcissists are welcome to their ‘take’ attitude. I walk a different path.

Silence is not golden – but maybe the end is shiny

It’s been a very long time since I posted and that’s not a great sign. In fact even that post was depressing too. This is a really handy insight into my journey and I’m really glad it’s here to remind me how bad it’s been for so long. Of course bad is relative – I’m not starving, I’m not homeless and I’m warm (I currently have two heaters running). Bad for my thesis has been no writing in almost two months and total frustration with theory (again).

There’s the summary, now what’s the detail? Well, as can be seen in my last post the literature review was not ideal. Of course what happened was I sucked it up and gave it to my supervisors anyway because horrible feedback is better than nothing, and is considerably better than me sulking in a hole about how awful it is. Turns out, both supervisors weren’t too unhappy. They aren’t in love with it or anything, but they had constructive feedback and there was no suggestion of binning the whole lot. What did this teach me? Well, that maybe my bad is not the same as everyone else’s.

Other detail is David trying really hard to get me to write the theory and methodology chapters. He has given me structure, he has given me word limits for the structure, he has given me reading resources, he has guided, cajoled, prodded, advised, humoured and been patient. I repaid all this with an email to him expressing frustration and anger and stating how I was going to do what I was going to do and then we would talk about it.

Something amazing happened. As soon as I sent that email I started writing. A lot. And it wasn’t dreadful. I mean let’s not get delusion here, there’s still a very long way to go, but at least I can write about theory now without wanting to vomit. (That’s serious there people – theory made me actually want to throw up every time I tried to write.) My plan is to write as much as I can (with references and everything!) and then provide it to David so he can see my vision of theory rather than more conversations of me trying to explain what I mean, failing, getting frustrated and sulking.

The other amazing thing is back in July I met with Leo on our next collaboration and I promised him a proposal by the end of July. That didn’t happen and the guilt has been building. Today, I got it together, did the data analysis I needed to in order to draft the proposal and then drafted. It’s now with Leo for comment. I can see the next article in what I’ve written and more interestingly, the theory was also completely clear to me. I can see how discourse theory works in this next paper and how I would write it up. And so while the silence of the last two months has not been golden (teary, frustrated, complicated – but not golden) I think the results to come from the silence might just be a little shiny.

Opinion piece with references

For the first time in a while I’m sitting writing my literature review chapter and have come to a moment of realisation. I am not writing a thesis, I’m writing an opinion piece with references…

I understand it’s better to realise this now, rather than in two years, but I have no idea how to write a thesis without spending the rest of my days reading anything ever written about funding and universities.

Despair has arrived on my doorstop and it didn’t even bother to bring flowers.

I think I’ll stand up, make a cup of tea, come back, and see if I can’t get at least something that resembles and argument together, after all, I only have a deadline of Sunday…that’s ages away.