To PhD, or not to PhD, that is the question:

well it’s not really the question because I’ve already decided, but I’m doing a bit of Hamlet-style pacing even so. The problem is that I had a perfectly good proposal but I’ve decided that it’s not quite right. What I had chosen just doesn’t seem that great any more, I don’t feel excited to tell people what I’m doing and that seems like a bad sign at this stage.

I went to a course last week, and I was talking to someone who thought even the word ‘poetry’ was hilarious, ‘maybe I’ll submit my thesis in poetry, see what they think of that haw haw haw‘ — but even that makes me doubt myself at the moment. Another person actually laughed out loud when I told them the other week what I was doing, and it wasn’t at the subject because it’s not funny at all, I think it was at me, my hesitancy, I think I had that look on my face, like Bill Clinton had when he said smiling, ‘I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky’, like Bill, I just wasn’t convincing, it was a combination of the smirk, the eyes and the fact that it just wasn’t true. Anyway, the laughing individual wasn’t being mean (though they will not be getting an Xmas card this year), but I do think they were thinking she sounds like a half-wit and perhaps the laugh was involuntary.

So I’m working hard at the moment trying to create a ‘sound-bite’ that I can reel off every time someone asks me what my research is, something snappy that makes me sound like I know what I’m talking about.

Last night I had a dream: I was doing a reading, I opened my book of poems to a poem that I recognised and knew really well, but when I started to read it, it had different words, words I hadn’t used, the poem looked exactly the same, it was mine, but the words were unfamiliar, I stumbled on the word ‘exegesis’, a word that I didn’t know the meaning of, or even how to pronounce. I was making an idiot of myself and then I realised the reading was being recorded.

That word ‘exegesis’, I realise, speaks volumes about me and my PhD. Oh dear! But on the plus side, the word was totally appropriate to my current situation, so even though I didn’t think I knew it (I’ve looked it up now of course), my brain knew it and I like my brain because of that, it does loads of things without me.

The thing is, I know that once I know what I’m doing, it will be fine, I’ve never had any problem doing academic work in the past. But the clock’s ticking and I’m still acting like ‘inarticulate in academia’. By the way, the Hamlet analogy is a bit heavy I know and there’s certainly no suicide subtext, let’s face it, having to write a really, really long essay is a luxury and not a problem. I should just get on with it, shouldn’t I?


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