It is a quarter to the end of 2017. Whoaaw. How time goes by. Its a Friday afternoon well after home time for everyone else at the office but me. Was it a prouctive day? I dont know, I dont think so. I spend the day trying to get through an introductory text on the concepts of my study so that I can get my mind set for writing a conceptual analysis draft.
And now I keep backspacing even as i write this ( not a good habit for trying to gain ground in writing ooh well).
I started writing this piece with the thought on patterns and rythms in my head. And just like the distracted state I am in I cant seem to write about that now as other stuff such as how my day went keep hovering. The scary thoughts about how I have just under a year to submit my thesis arent going away. I am suppossed to publish an article by the end of the year. I should submit three next year. How in the world am I going to so. pHeeew sighs and shakes head. My shoulders are tense.
Well back to the patterns and rythms, yesterday before I went to bed I thought about how everything no matter how novel should fit into a rythm or pattern or code for it to make an impact. But for the rythm to happen…… .. really cant get my thoughts now. Maybe I should write about this sometime. Let me go back to trying to finish the book I was reading; maybe I can have a day’s worth of work after all.
Many moons ago as the new year began and with lots of expectation for a year of writing, I did a couple of posts. The last one was a vent post as I felt overwhelmed by grad school. Now as I sat up in bed this Saturday morning and at 5 am I thought well… its less that half a year to the end of 2017 and only now do I feel comfortable where this year is going, I guess its something about post half time, you know what you getting. No more unrealistic expectations, no more guilt trips of having missed a daily routine as one often has when the year starts. Does this mean that I got over my new year overwhelmed issues and I have been whizzing past with no qualms, or I have so jolly busy to write. No actually, I just got into the deep end even more and have no reason why I wasn’t musing about it except… laziness… no I wont be harsh with myself, except that I couldn’t. But what matters (or does it?) is I am here now and I wont promise to not disappear but I will promise to do my best.
So whats been going on besides missing out on the satisfaction that comes with typing without the restraint one has when they are drafting a scientific article. Starting with the not so good stuff, I have been struggling with motivation for my PhD. You see, I am right in the middle, currently collecting data and because I am collecting long term process data in the forest ( will tell you about that sometime) it can get mundane. But if one wants to get out of the boredom curse they should try and do other stuff too like drafting their conceptual articles. Have I had any success with that, maybe, just maybe but not to the extent I would want, I have had one of the papers published but the other one is still a draft to which no human eyes besides mine should wander.
And on the to good stuff, I just presented at an international conference and even got an award for second best presentation and, on that note I am still thinking I will get an email letting me know that they made a mistake with that award. Call it imposter syndrome or just good old self doubt but I am one of the most horribly nervous presenters I know. Maybe my bathroom mirror practices are helping. Then the other cool thing was I got to go to Vienna for a strategy review panel meeting for a research organisation in my field. To be appointed on that panel felt good and even more so because I am a young female grad student who half the time has no idea whats going on. I have been to Europe before and for Vienna it was the third time. I must say the African that I am really appreciates the no hurry and relaxed culture of Vienna, and of course the side walk cafes that telepathically woo you to have coffee all the time. One more cool thing was that I co-organised an international students symposium. Boy…. taking the Western and Eastern students to the Savannah and seeing their reactions was more exciting than seeing the charismatic BIG FIVE animals that by the way came out in numbers ( a rare thing) and made our game drives special.
On that note I will leave with you a picture of effie the elephant ( no that’s not the name, wild African elephants do not have humanised names,its just my creation – just look at those gentle eyes) and another one of the beautiful African sunset. These were taken by my Czech colleague, Jiri.
I hope to be back soon and though soon could be relative, its always calming than giving exact numbers. Hakuna Matata! Until next time!
Grad school is to me one of the few journeys in life that bring out the you to you. What do I mean by this? it is a time when you realise who you are on your own. You feel every feeling, every emotion and sometimes you can explain why you feel that way but most of the time you cant. You learn to live with yourself, the best of you and the worst of you. You learn to adapt to the person you are and though that is probably not easy and we often avoid it (I know I do), the nature of discovery in postgraduate studies jumps on to the art of self discovery as well. Though mostly through the difficult times of trying to figure out an analysis, trying to write but no words come out and having to plan your work with limited funding, it seems to be worth it at the end. Thats what they all say!
Today is one of those days for me, I am completely overwhelmed, nothing seems to make sense, work is a mountain, I have a rejected manuscript sent to me a while ago ( 4 weeks). I don’t think my work will add any value to the body of knowledge as it is supposed to and I have no idea if I am doing the right thing by trying to get this qualification. I am simply out of it, burnt out,trying to survive. I have read quite a bit on how to overcome these moments , on blogs, in books etc and none of that advise seems to be applicable right now. What could work is me just crying my eyes out and getting rid of the tears that have been welling up the whole time since I started writing this. I just want to slide under my small cubicle desk and disappear. Worse off , everyone kind off thinks that I have it together, my parents are always over the moon telling their circle how I am now doing this advanced degree , my siblings always tell me that they look up to me, my friends and even colleagues come to chat to me and ask me for help with their work and I do help them. Its all rosy but I am in the valley of **** and I dont know how to get out except type away all the nonsense like I am doing now. i am burnt out and pixabay had just the right image for it.
So what now? I should probably go and see the campus shrink and maybe my next post will be about how I got over this painful phase. wheeew it does help to type nonsense though doesnt it? 🙂
“You are not too busy to write, busy is what you do to explain your not writing” those were the words of an academic who just presented a writing workshop to our postgraduate student class. That was appalling to hear , I mean, we all silently wish for a block of writing time, when we can wake up and not even need to have breakfast , our bodies being miraculously nourished so that we can just start typing away. As we all know and unfortunately that block of time never comes. And we all wallow in the pain of binge writing and cluck about how we never get the time to get those papers out.
I love writing, I really do, but not so much scientific writing. Here is why I think I am in this predicament. During my school years I was applauded for my creative writing essays, I enjoyed it and though that wasn’t so much regarded as cool in university I managed to scathe past the anger of professors as most of that is directed towards English as as a second-language writers ( or the ones that supposedly have below average writing skills because technically I am a second language writer). And though once in a while I got hints on how I shouldn’t use flowery language, it wasn’t a train smash. Grad school changed that whole paradigm , it was drummed into me that scientific writing was not fun and it is my only way out of the postgraduate studies sausage machine. I had to learn how to write and write in a way that was according to my newly configured brain, “not fun”. I wish they had just told me that it was another form of writing and not emphasised the painful part of it.
So then started my misery with scientific writing. I do write and I do get papers done , but it is such a mission, and everytime someone asks me how my writing progress is ( academic writing progress not “fun writing” like what I am doing now), its always I am busy, busy yes because it is a mammoth task to do it. So here was this professor laying it all bare in my face that you are busy because you do not write. It was hard to hear it but its so true, most of my time is spend worrying about the many writing tasks I have or finding excuses to why the moment is not optimal for writing, and at the end of the day I don’t do much, the work piles and I am forever busy. I have never thought of it in that way you know, and it was eye-opening to hear it because if I look at how I always would rather clean the house in the name of I am cleaning my writing space and come the end of the day I have so little time to write not to mention nothing written, I had to face my dark fears about scientific writing.
So here is my new strategy ; scientific writing is just another form of writing, it is not a painful writing and everytime i find myself saying I am too busy I don’t have time to write then I will just remind myself that its the opposite ;BUSY IS WHAT I DO TO EXPLAIN MY NOT WRITING.
I haven’t written for awhile, I might have written a paragraph or two for my thesis and maybe even corrected a rejected academic manuscript in the hope of resubmitting it. Yet I can say that I haven’t written to the edge of getting satisfaction that comes with listening to a clicking keyboard, a form of writing without restraint or the judging of an inner editor that makes you backspace every 10 seconds, the satisfaction that comes with just putting every word that comes to your fingers and only going back to spell check after you are done schwpilling your brain. This is the writing I am talking about, it kind of doesn’t seem to be productive writing for someone who has 19 more months to hand in their PhD thesis, but its feel good writing.
I started a blog a year and a half ago, the same time I was also a newbie PhD student. That blog took off with two posts and it landed, I wonder if it’s because I just didn’t have much to spill out of a clogged brain like I do now, with so many academic papers floating in my head or I just didn’t have the urge to write something down. I honestly don’t know. Do I think that my passion for uncontrolled keyboard clicking is ignited again? , no I don’t think so, do I have so many thought piece iterations in my head? yes. So what will I write about, everything and anything that won’t have space to stay in my head. Culture, religion, identity, post-colonial Africa in the eyes of a young African whose education is mostly westernised, thoughts on why I think my paper should have been accepted in a journal and not rejected, well so much to do for not restraining my fingers from the keyboard. This form of writing will keep me sane during this trying Phdiing time. Only time will tell whether this blog will be about me seeking sanity through my musings or passion unravelled.