Several months ago I embarked on a challenge to explore the wide world outside the University. As a result I somehow abandoned my blog. It was not intended but I was quickly absorbed by new experiences and found myself with very little spare time. Not that I didn’t have writing ideas and urges, I did and I diligently logged these as drafts to refine and publish later, but I felt I needed reflection and time before being able to communicate the newness and excitement of my experiences.
So what have I been doing?
I put my PhD on hold and went to work in the Civil Service. My funders, the ESRC, provide a number of public sector opportunities for PhD students test their skills and confidence in different contexts. So I applied, I thought the worst case scenario was to get rejected. Well, I got it. I secured a 6 month internship in the heart of government – Cabinet Office Government Innovation Group as a Policy Advisor. The experience opened my eyes and definitely refreshed my tired PhD brain. I learned a lot and stretched my comfort zone on a daily basis, I tested my patience and developed resilience.
I met fantastic people and made new friends, discovered new areas of interest and appreciated how far I’ve come in my development. I guess being a PhD student makes you under-appreciate lots about you being in a ‘student position’. I think I needed to get out of academia and realise: hey, I can do things and I can do them well! At the same time I took a break from struggling with theoretical frameworks, piles of data and feeling stuck.
I lived in the Big Smoke, even though I never got excited by it, travelled on the tube for 1.5 hours daily, read a total of 15 books in 6 months and so achieved one of my resolutions from last year (12 books in 12 months I think it was). I wrote brief reviews for the books and so experienced another way of thinking and writing. I visited couple of palaces, a few landmarks, had cocktails on the 50th floor enjoying bird-eye City views, got lost and found.
I ditched procrastination, yes, I did. The job made do it! With the intensity of my Cabinet Office experiences I never feared a blank page or inability to write or putting off till later. I brought that back with me to the PhD and I can gladly say I’ve been working damn hard sine the beginning of January. I plan, set deadlines, stick to them and write. How? I’ll let you know later!
I reconsidered my career prospects, hopes and aspirations. I’ve always had my heart set on academia but in the current climate getting a job is extra tough. I am not put off the least but I gained confidence that there are other career routes I would enjoy and would therefore consider. I also thought abut transitioning in and out of academia as a learning point or even potential route. Who said the first job you get after finishing a PhD is the best you can have?
I fell in love with my PhD again. I guess separation is good, more than good, separation gave me a fresh perspective and new motivation to go forward. I am now determined to complete the PhD and see what else is in-store for me. Looks like this year will be one of tying lose ends and celebrating new beginning.
To sum up, I’ve got lots to write about and I am ready to share. Bring on 2014 and all excitement. (I know it’s almost February, but I had to say it!)