Should I rejoin Facebook?

I’m done with the PhD. I’ve nearly finished teaching. Should I rejoin Facebook or is it all a waste of time, and potentially a bit Big Brother-y?

I’m not sure I really want to go back to that life. I’m doing okay without it. But I have slightly addictive tendencies with the thing should I choose to return.

Hmm. Thoughts welcomed.

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It’s done.

I’ve finished the PhD.

Now for the next phase: examination, revisions and the Dr hat, I hope.

There were some melancholy moments last week as I tried to come to terms with the eventual cutting of my PhD umbilical cord. What do I do now, was my wail. Well, in typical Jessie fashion, I’m not sitting on my hands. I asked for advice from two brilliant women in my workplace, to try and make sense of my current strengths, to see where my weaknesses are, and to help me plan my next move.

Mentoring is a really important facet of working life, and I’m lucky to know 2 fantastic women in positions of authority in universities more than willing to give me advice and help me plan my next move.

I need to “step up” to the next level. I’ve been thinking about what I want to achieve in my next life phase. I think I’m ready to lead. The advice from lots of people is, “stop”. Breathe. Take a year off. Well, can’t do the last one because I’m working to pay for stuff. No taking a year off for me. Besides, I’m already a published author. I know how this thing works.

But I can’t keep doing what I’m doing for bread and butter at the current work load because it’s not sustainable nor does it provide a rewarding, growing career. There’s no jam.

So, I’ve come up with a little list of projects to do while I’m “taking time out from writing”. Here’s a taster, in no particular order:

  1. Plan the house plans and renovations.
  2. Write a cabaret.
  3. Plan the book from my PhD.
  4. Prepare three more journal articles from my thesis and conference papers.
  5. Plan a Post Doc or Decra or Churchill.
  6. Do craft.

I think that’s a pretty good list. Maybe except the last one.

 

 

 

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By George I think she’s got it!

keep-calm-and-say-woohooToday I submitted my finished PhD and my filled out submission form to my supervisors for a read prior to next week’s meeting.

I’m done now.

 

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When writing becomes dancing

I think for some PhD students the final last gasp to the finish line must feel just like that – a final gut-wrenching, exhausting, mind-numbed collapse over the line. And until recently I thought it was like that for me. But something has changed.

I’m dancing.

These last three days have felt balletic. I’ve done all the hard slog and now I’m merely finishing off my footwork and hand movements – the choreo is done, the practising is done, I’m just perfecting it now.

I’ve been writing a few minutes here, and hour or two there, and apart from some additional discussion writing and making sure the conclusion matches the theory and the introduction I’m just editing. It’s like flourishes with a ribbon. Quick, short, gone in a flash.

Missed a reference? Add it in – flourish! Whoops, poor cutting and pasting? Slice it away, whoosh! Sentences too long? Add a full stop and reshape. Twirl! I’m dancing over the text. My supervisor has now read the whole draft and this morning I incorporated her edits in 3 whole chapters. It took 2 hours. Wheee!

I guess it helps that my supervisor isn’t throwing up over the material. She has even praised me for some sections. She’s let go a bit too.

I’m not sure why I feel this way. Maybe it’s because I set up my final document some months ago and I’ve been working with the final draft copy ever since. All the margins are done. The frontispieces and back matter, appendices and references are all done. The TOC, updating automatically when needed. There’s now no longer any need to sit for long hours at the computer, pulling my hair out. Just a pirouette here, a jete there.

I’m at the end and I can feel it. It’s not a big Beethoven finale, but it’s lovely. A little bit Bach.

Can you feel it? Can you see it? I’m dancing!

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When money burns a hole in the pocket.

I have some spare money at the moment. Notice I say AT THE MOMENT. Because I can feel a shopping spree coming on. I’m trying SO HARD not to spend my lovely lovely money, because we are about to spend lots of money on the house and I need to ensure my lovely lovely money lasts all the way to February next year. I’ve not paid myself from my business since July, and I won’t pay myself from my business until I have no more money left in my transaction account.

DH and I tend to spend money when we can’t really afford big ticket items such as a new stove or fridge. We end up spending lots of money on little, less expensive items, that in total probably come up to the big ticket item. But I’m tempted to buy a new fridge this week. Our old fridge is finally not going so well, its seals are failing for the 2nd time, one of the plastic shelves has been broken for about 5 years, and it’s not big enough for a large family. Especially when adult children live at home, and we basically have a share house now.

Alternatively I could pay off the Credit Card. Now THAT’S a thought. Or I could do my tax for 2014. That’s another thought. Get more lovely lovely money from the return. Sorry for this post: I’m feeling spendy at the moment.

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What do I do now?

As I approach the end of my thesis I am reminded of the words of Agnes Gooch from the show “Mame”, when her “field trip” to explore life resulted in an unexpected pregnancy. As she returned to accuse her “teacher”, Mrs Burnside, she bewailed “what do I do now?” I feel rather the same way.

I am so close to the finish line I can smell it – in fact, give me a few more days and I think I will have the bulk of the thesis complete, with just a few loose ends to tie up. I don’t actually have a few more days, but I used an unexpected free day today to do some more work on the discussion chapter and conclusion. I worked reasonably consistently and am happy to see more loose ends knotted off now. Friday is my next full day for work and then perhaps some of the weekend. Yes, that’s how close it is, folks. Weekend work on the thesis.

But my thoughts keep straying to the thing after the thing. What next? Am I willing to stay a peripatetic teacher (with a PhD) at a university, or am I meant for more? Not that teaching isn’t awesome, but teaching 40 hours a week during term time isn’t awesome. As I explained to DH, I like teaching just fine, but I am exhausting myself trying to do this much teaching for a relatively small reward.

As he himself admits, if I were working full time in the uni system I would not be doing as much teaching as this. In fact, I would be doing a range of other things, based on a 40/40/20 model. 40% teaching, 40% research, 20% service. For me, this break down of work is greatly appealing. But it shows that the amount of teaching I do is well in excess of normal teaching arrangements at either secondary or tertiary level. Add to that workshops, master classes, performances and administrivia, and it’s no wonder I’m tired.

But as I enter my 45th year (and the irony of the mid-life crisis hasn’t eluded me, folks), I’m wondering if this is it. What do I do now? I’m at the peak of my working life, cobbling together a career out of bits and pieces of consulting and teaching work, and I’m now feeling like it’s not enough.  There’s no forward momentum, no career pathway for this life. No sense of striving, and no real sense of belonging to my main employer, although I feel as loyal and connected as I can to the place. My boss gives me as much higher duty work as he can manage but he has to be seen to be fair and I can’t do it to the exclusion of other employees. Besides which, DH is the Grand Poobah and any work I DO get might be seen as nepotism.

It doesn’t help that I’m nearly grieving for the loss of thesis-baby as she grows up and leaves home, and that we have plans for the house that requires me maintaining my income. I can’t afford to take time off to think about it – I need to keep working. So, what do I do now?!

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I AM SO TIRED…and what is a Pomodoro?

I’ve nearly finished the dissertation. Half a discussion chapter to complete (20 pomodoros) and fix up the abstract (4 pomodoros). Rewrite the conclusion so it doesn’t suck (10 pomodoros). Add the figures and adjust the TOC (8 pomodoros). And I’m done. But do you think I want to even look at the thing? Nope. I can’t even bring myself to open the bloody document and do a couple of pomodoros to get me started. I just don’t want to do it. And I knew this would happen as soon as I started teaching again. Teaching just wipes me out, emotionally, intellectually, physically. I care about my kids and I want the best for them, so I spend a lot of time and energy on them. And I just can’t bring myself to work on the thesis. If I look at the amount of pomodoros I need to finish, it’s 21 hours. Half a week of full time work. Maybe the discussion chapter will take a tad longer than 20 pomodoros, but if I stick to the script…

Pomodoro, by the way, is a special term intended for developing better time management to improve work efficiency. 1 pomodoro can last as little as 15 minutes or as long as you like, but the trick is to take an actual stand-up break for 5 minutes in between work activities. So below is an approach quite useful for me during morning sessions:

1 pomodoro: 25 minutes

break: 5 minutes

2 pomodoro: 25 minutes

break: 5 minutes

3 pomodoro: 25 minutes

break: 5 minutes

4 pomodoro: 25 minutes

break: long break.

Pomodoros are useful blocks of time for those who work at computers and have ready access to internet and email. You don’t look at email or do anything other than the work you have set yourself for that 25 minutes, and then, during the 5 minute break, you get up off your chair and grab a cup of tea or do something physical. It’s a great way to achieve focus in an accessible and reasonably short block of time, therefore tricking your brain into thinking it’s super-easy to do just 25 minutes. But I can’t even bring myself to do 1 pomodoro on my thesis this week. Blah.

I am so tired. But the end is so close. SO close.

I looked over the literature review the other day and it holds up ok. Just need to finish that blasted discussion chapter. But that means deep thought. I’m incapable this week of deep thought. This month, this semester. Gah.

I keep looking for spare weeks in my diary where I’m not teaching 10 hours a day. I found two in late September. I’m only teaching or auditioning in the mornings. Good. This will get me through the rest of the thesis, provided I can just finish the discussion chapter.

And let me not start on the blessed administrivia and bureaucratic nightmare that is my place of study or coping with the continual roadblocks barring my way at the last minute.

Care factor? Nearly zero. Desperation to finish? Out of 100: ninety-nine. Deadline? November. Totally possible, except I have no time to work right now. It shows me how deep I go when I am in the throes of writing, and how much time and space I truly need in order to write. Charles Bukowski was a alcoholic bullshit artist with his poem that you don’t need time and space and light and air to write – if you really want to, you just write. Well, sure. If you like writing bullshit. And if your paid work consists of brainless stuff like cleaning where there’s lots of time for thinking.

Every few days I read a fabulous blog by Pat Thomson, called Patter. Her last blogpost could have been written just for me. I’m sure she’s looking over my shoulder cheering me on. Even if she’s not, her blogs eerily mirror my current trajectory. Thanks, Pat, for providing such great information to those desperate PhD students who are just a little sick of Jorge Cham’s PhD comics. Great for when you’re a full time science student, annoying when you’ve been writing your dissertation for too many years to count and the characters in the comics never age. Plus the comic is overwhelmingly US-centric and young grad-student. Therefore limited and not really relevant to an old chook like me.

One thing’s for certain: I’m desperate to write a bit of fiction in the next few years. Desperate. And also to get out in the sun. And do something other than this.

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