Monday, November 24, 2008

You are my sunshine...

No, this is not a post about the snookums in my life. Unfortunately I am more or less married to a PhD at the moment and therefore have very little time or inclination for any more of a personal life than the few friends who have stuck by me through all the cranky days, going away for months at a time and general depression that is usually associated with being stuck for 4 years in a degree that you hate.

I've just got the song stuck in my head, which is pounding by the way! I started a migraine on Friday and it hasn't gone away yet, so I'm on a strict regime of 7 or 8 Advil in the course of the morning, washed down with at least 5 cups of coffee. It seems to work, but it takes a few hours to kick in.

Anyway this is just a little post because I really have to get back to work...

On Friday our department had a year-end function. It was nice in that there was free food and drinks, and anyone who reads PHD comics will know that free food is the holy grail of post-grad students! I also sat with Luke and Terri, who is someone I know vaguely - we tend to book out the same vehicle at the same time and she's always really nice about letting me change her over to another vehicle, but other than that I don't think I've ever had a real conversation with her. She was nice though and I'm glad I got to know her a little bit.

But anyway, at one stage I went back to the lab to get another Advil, and when I got back to the party I was cornered by one of the staff members. To put it in perspective, she is kind of a friend of my family in that she goes to my church and she taught my admission to communion classes when I was 8 or so, so she has always taken a little bit more of an interest in my academic career than I would have liked. On top of it all, she's a very difficult person, violently disliked and incredibly difficult to work with or for, which is always a joy as she quite often requests me as a TA for her courses.

As she hasn't seen me in probably about 6 months she wanted to know all about everything and I answered her questions while backing away slowly until I came up against one of the huge metal doors in the building. She continued to invade my personal space a little bit (I'm still not used to having other people within shouting range, so I found it incredibly uncomfortable) and wanted to know all about my plans for when I'm finished.

Oh, an aside: questions that nobody may ask me under any circumstances:

  1. how is your project going?
  2. when do you intend to finish?
  3. How was fieldwork?
  4. Did you get the data you needed?
  5. What are you going to do when you graduate?

She worked her way down the list at an alarming pace and then asked me what I had planned for after I graduate. I replied: "Well, I'm hoping to finish mid 2010 and then get as far away from this university as possible. I don't know what I'm going to do, I'll figure that out closer to the time" She launched into another series of questions (or prompts) with:

"Well are you going to do a post-doc? Do you want to go overseas? Do you..." I interrupted her by saying yes, overseas could be fun and I've made a few contacts for postdocs in America and I could probably find one in Australia but I'm not sure that I want a career in academia so I'm going to have to see if there's anything else available when I finish.

She showed her incredible listening skills by telling me to take time off from academia. I answered that I don't WANT to be an academic, but it's a pretty big decision because, according to my supervisor if you take a year off you end up out-of-touch with the academic world, you lost track of developments in your field, you lose touch with contacts you've made and so on. She (who by the way is less qualified than me, but anyway) then went on a tirade about what nonsense that was and that I have to go and work somewhere so I can learn to have successful interpersonal relationships. I managed to bite back the giggles at the irony of the situation and pointed out that I've been working in the holidays since I was 15 and that I've maintained a steady weekend job for the last 6 years, so I know how to get along with a boss.

Fortunately someone wanted to open the door I was leaning on, and when I turned I saw a friend of mine who understood what I meant when I started mouthing "HELP! HELP!!!" at her, and I was able to extract myself from the situation.

Anyway, the whole thing made me angry. I know that I'm unhappy in research and I'll probably end up in a completely different career. I know that I have to get through this, even if it's in a head-down-and-sprint way. And I don't need the unsolicited advice of someone who has never been in my situation in order to figure out what I want to do with my life.

The weekend was a lot better after that. I managed to get some tricky work done, saw Lara for the first time in months which was awesome! I missed the girly giggling fits! And had a picnic at the zoo where I was bundled up in a blanket and pushed down a hill.

And now I'm back to work to get ready for the conference. Fun times!


Miles McClagan said...

God, all that happens to me at parties is that I end up leading a conga line...she's so not invited to my next soiree...nosey!

sarah said...


thanks a LOT

now i have that song stuck in my head too!! :)

i will not ask you a single question about research

i will just tell you good luck!!