#241: Skills I Never Thought I’d Need As An Academic

by Anna Blanch on July 20, 2010

An Anti-gravity Superpower.

That’s right, i’m an Academic Superhero (so not so much….) and my superhero is the ability to throw all the balls in the air and some how manage to keep them there while trying to hold the rest of my life together.

In the UK system there is often a large stretch of lag time between handing in the PhD thesis to your supervisor for final review, and then at least another couple of months between when the external examiner receives the final copy for review before a Viva (defense) date is set. The question that I am watching many of my colleagues deal with is how you live during this time.

It begs questions like how do you see your PhD (is it a lifestyle? is it a job?)? how you see where you live (is it where you live? or, is it where you study and your real life is somewhere else?)?

While I am now in a position where I can be writing almost anywhere (I’m the UK equivalent of ABD*) I’ve chosen to see where I live as just that, a choice. So, i live here, i don’t just study here. I’m trying to get to know my neighbors and learn their names. I’m trying to connect with the community and engage with my church. Moving countries for the third time in three years has taught me a great deal about myself, about people, about getting to know people. It’s shown me that while i love to travel and meet people I need a sanctuary – a peaceful home in which I can both create and contemplate; a place where i can welcome others in and rest well.

I’ve realised though that I’m kind of like a shark. I almost feel like i’d perish if i stopped moving. It isn’t about forward motion or even any motion – it is about being intentional rather than stagnating, being content rather than drifting aimlessly. I’m working on not always thinking about tomorrow or the future, but carefully contemplating and learning from the experiences of others.

I guess i need to feel like being still = being content and think about what I’m going to do to make sure I’m living and not just surviving during those last few months of this thing. I’ll tell you how its going in about 18 months…

*ABD – All but dissertation

Anna Blanch is founder of Goannatree, and a PhD candidate in the Institute of Theology, Imagination, and the Arts at St Mary’s College, University of St Andrews, Scotland. She is also a weekly contributor to Transpositions.

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