Sunday, 6 December 2009

Judgement and acceptance

I've been stopped in my tracks a bit this week. My PhD viva (oral exam) was on Thursday, I didn't come out with the result I was hoping for...

I've been writing the PhD for so long (six years!), and I've had so many emotions about the process and the thing itself, that this almost felt a bit flat. I've felt elated, crushed, frustrated, annoyed, incompetent, useless, grumpy, grumpy, grumpy about this thing, but whatever I've been feeling, it's been such a big part of my life for so long, it was hard to believe it was ever going to go away. Finally, it seemed like the end was near - and now it's been pushed just that little bit further away again.

This isn't the place for details, but suffice to say the examiners didn't like what I'd written. This is always one of the problems with putting something out there into the world, there will always be people who don't like it, it's just annoying when the people who don't like it are the people who are there to officially pass judgement.

It would have been easy to stomp on Thursday afternoon, to set fire to my thesis (oh, how many times did I threaten to do just that in the last six years??), to slam a couple of doors, or to burst into tears. I actually managed to do none of those things, and in fact behaved impeccably, no tantrums, no tears, no bitterness, and a genuine sense of congratulations for the other woman who was being examined in the room next to mine (and who passed).

We all went for a drink together, us two examinees, our supervisors, other students in the department, and the other woman's examiners (my goodwill didn't quite extend to inviting my examiners to the pub...) We had a nice evening, and we came home worn out and only a little bit tipsy.
There's plenty of people I could blame, justly or unjustly, for this daft old situation I now find myself in. My supervisors, for example, for thinking my thesis was ok when it wasn't, my examiners, for thinking my thesis wasn't ok when it was, the whole system of PhD-ing for making one set of people's judgements matter over another set of people's, myself, for not doing it properly in the first place...

However, I'm a cheery soul, and not much given to self pity and bitterness. Peter's dad says 'deal with things as they are, not as you'd like them to be', and I think that's pretty wise advice. Attitude is everything in situations like this. I might not like what they said, I might not at all like the fact that I now have to spend several more months writing something I thought would be out of my hair by now, but that's the way it is, so we'll take it from there and move forwards.

So, in the spirit of cheery acceptance, let me list the things about this I'm grateful for, rather than the things I'm annoyed about. I'm grateful that the viva itself felt like a positive chat at the time, rather than an inquisition (whatever I think when I look back on it!). I'm also very grateful I don't have to do it again. The last few months of writing were rushed, so I'm grateful for the opportunity to spend a bit more time exploring things I hadn't quite got my head round.

I'm grateful that, since there's work to be done, I've got a whole year to do it, rather than a few weeks, even if I'd rather be spending that year doing something else. I'm grateful for the support that my friends and family have shown, being positive when I've needed it, and also letting me let off steam a bit when I needed to do that. I'm grateful for another year of cheaper train travel and council tax discount...

And I'm also grateful that I was able to whizz off to Bristol on Friday and spend the weekend with some lovely friends and their children, in the welcoming chaos of the new home they've just moved into. A bit of discussion, and a lot of singing and playing and messing around and getting wet and looking at colourful things and crafty things and eating cake was just what I needed :)

Now I've come back, it's dawning on me just how little time there is left before Christmas. I've got a couple of pictures of things I've made to show you, but that can wait for a different post. Christmas decorations up after work tomorrow, I reckon, then I might start with tiny glimpses of Christmas-presents-in-progress... Can't wait!

1 comment:

  1. What a very positive attitude, I don't know where you get it from, but I'm impressed and proud. xx