#15. The joys of PhD

After hitting the “publish” button for my last post on the long and winding road to PhD, I went back to re-read it…and then got depressed. And as if exactly on cue, a friend on Facebook echoed what was going on in my mind – “kind of depressing”…uh oh. Did I just turn my soap box into a source of depressing information…argh – so. not. my. intention. If there is one thing that is so annoying, its parents who whine and complain about how much they hate parenting and then bookend their rant and rave with “but I really adore my kids, I wouldn’t trade them in for anything”….I am usually thinking, by the sounds of it, you would. I feel like I have become one of those whiny parents vis a vis PhD. holding. face. in. shame.

While I can’t redeem myself from that post, I can balance out some of our experiences. Here’s my top 10 list of the joys of PhD…YES believe me the list is endless, but why share all the love today? I’ll save some for later…

#10. I spend most of my day in my pyjamas

Dr. D will probably not approve of this ‘joy’, he is of the old school of thought that requires that you shower the minute you get out of bed. And while I probably try to take said shower before noon, I often resort right back to comfy clothes – read, pyjamas. Now, before you jump to the conclusion that pyjamas = laziness, I’ll have you know that some of the most creative thought processes emerge from a pyjama-state-of-wardrobe. Unless I have to go out into the real world and interact with other human beings, comfort rules…

#9. Two steps and I am in my ‘office’

There is no greater joy than waking up, putting on my flipflops and walking into my home ‘office’. On the days when I do get up at 7.30am, by 7.32 I can be seated at my desk ready to hit the internet for quick updates (read 2 hours) before getting into some literature reviewing, or article reading or report editing. Not having to commute is a great blessing and having the kitchen two steps away is great although not always appreciated by belly that has been trying to not let its circumference match my age.

#8. Doing research on a topic that I care about

This is a great privilege that I truly appreciate. I spend the day thinking about, mulling on and interrogating a topic that I truly care about – healthy health systems in Africa. It’s something that I eat, breathe and sleep everyday. Some days better than others. That’s a great joy and a great blessing. To even get to the point where I can narrow it down to something I care about is a bonus.

#7. Flexibility

This cannot be overstated! Having flexibility is what keeps academics in academia. The fact that you almost have control over your schedule, don’t have to be in a rigid 9 to 5 organization is often what lures us into the institution. Of course little do we know that flexibility means that we are up until all odd hours finishing up papers and writing up proposals. That being said, we can always sleep in the next day – hence flexibility. Flexibility is especially useful when you are the family zone – it allows you to do many things that a 9 to 5 job would ordinarily restrict you from doing.

#6. Conferences

This is probably one of my absolute favourite activities of PhD. And the fact that we are expected to attend on average 2 per year is an added bonus. Particularly if you choose your locations well. Thankfully, most health scientists know that a conference in Cuba in November is a great idea, or that a conference in Brussels which is a train ride away from Paris is always a good idea. Beyond exotic locations, I love networking with people in my field and that feeling like you are a part of a greater community of practitioners. It gives you the zeal to get back to home office in pyjamas and pound away at the computer.

#5. Getting funded

I cannot explain the feeling for a graduate student when you get that email that says “We are  pleased…” literally the next few words don’t even matter. The sheer fact that someone is pleased with you is good enough to light up your day. If the sentence goes on to say …”we are pleased to offer you such and such funding for such and such research”, the equivalent of a touchdown or a goal at the 91st  minute of a soccer game…enter the silly dance.  That email signifies the end to sleepless nights worrying about how you will do your research and who will care enough to fund your work and reminds you that what you’re doing is actually worth something that someone is willing to pay for.

#4. The Silly Dance

Every PhD student has to have a silly dance. What is it? The jig in front of the computer when you get said email about funding. The dance you do when you get that email from your supervisor saying they think you actually have a brain after all and that lately you have been using it for good. The dance you do when you find out your poster/paper/presentation was accepted for the conference in Cuba in November…the silly dance!

Before this dance, I didn’t even know that the silly dance was officially recognized. Here is a competition on creating an interpretive dance about your PhD

#3. Field research

I am just getting ready to go into the field research phase of  my program. This is your raison d’etre as a PhD. It is the topic that caused you to sign up for more school because you care about it and you want to learn more about it. I love being in the field. It is one of the most invigorating aspects of research that I enjoy. Meeting people, exchanging ideas, bridging the gap between reality and theory. It is where true learning occurs. Double plus if you get good funding to do the field research.

#2. You get to be a mentor

I am where I am because of mentorship and encouragement by some really excellent academics and professionals. And as a PhD student, I get to be that person to someone else. I so thoroughly enjoy encouraging people to go on and get that degree. It is truly a passion and one I get to do everyday. More than that, just by beingmrsdrd I get to be a role model. There is nothing like seeing a young woman or man’s face light up when they hear that you are not just another 22 year old (I blame my parents for the great genes), but that you are actually doing your PhD. It’s like they see themselves and see the possibilities. That is a great privilege that no amount of money can buy.

#1. You get to be called ‘Doctor’ even before you graduate

…without ever having to cut anyone open or stare at blood. The irony of this is that I wanted to be a medical doctor when I was a kid. Like I’ve said before, after hearing Dr. D describe in detail some of the gory things that ‘real’ doctors have to do, I am very glad that God changed my career path and instead led me towards the non-gory bloodless doctor path. Parents are great for invoking the doctor stature, of course they will be the ones to conveniently leave out the fact that you are not a medical doctor…but we just have to love them for their pride in their kids.

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  1. Pingback: mohanalakshmi.com | Living, working, and writing in Doha, Qatar

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