Big Scary Goal for June 2018: The epic conclusion
It’s done. It’s actually done. About ten days ago, I submitted a slew of work to demonstrate that, despite the sense that my life was almost permanently on fire, I’d done something for my PhD.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it’s a good start when your supervisor finds you a pouf to rest your surgical booted foot on during the meeting. It was far more relaxed than I was expecting it to be, mostly because I’d done a lot to try to manage the thoughts about panels that make it so agonising.
We talked about the writing I’d done, which was entirely about the use of small statues in the Greek Magical Papyri. I picked up a lot of advice on where to take the whole thing next, and the probably predictable guidance to make sure the thesis has focus and sticks to the research questions.
Two things came out that weren’t about the work but are important. The first was that I need to look into getting retrospective sick leave for the long period of time when work was impossible or uneven because of Everything That Happened.
It’s something I’ve never thought about because, although I’m a funded PhD student, it can feel like a 24/7 affair and while I was going through the nightmare, I was too busy going through it to think about what else I could do to make life easier. There is, however, an official system in my funding body that would allow me to extend the PhD deadline so I don’t run out of funding if I need extra time to finish as a result of all this.
The second thing was taking a break. Over and over again. Go away on holiday. Have a lie down, at the very least. Take some time off. I find this the hardest thing of all. I tend to use work as a way to avoid the nasty stuff in my head (thank you, depression). It can be very tempting to pick up the next thing and dive into that. I was reading a fascinating article by Kopytoff on object biographies and I could just…
I do need to rest. The most glorious thing about yesterday and today was that a lot of the noise in my head subsided. I was able to stop, and rest, and to enjoy that rest. I’m reading N K Jemisin’s The Fifth Season and having the chance just to read that without feeling like I should be doing something else is wonderful.
This is probably the first time I haven’t forced myself to try to keep going at all. I told Dragon’s Claws yesterday I wouldn’t be able to do it, and I haven’t even tried. It’s time for a rest. There’s the World Cup, there’s Eastbourne and Wimbledon, the Sacred Two Weeks of Tennis, coming up.
I did spend yesterday doing an awful lot of Amnar. This is the fantasy world I write about, for those who don’t know, and I’ve been struggling to work on it for years. The need to prioritise the PhD has made it hard to do even background work, but last night watching the football was an opportunity to sit back, relax and enjoy digging into the thing that really gives me life.
Here’s the thing. When I came out, I felt like telling people about it was bragging. I’d made it through this really tough panel, and been told I was so far ahead of where a first year should expect to be. I’d almost dismissed it because I said I’d done a PhD before so I knew what sort of things to do. It’s a real struggle to celebrate when you’re so desperate not to be seen as showing off.
But I did it. I really did it. And that is despite the surgery, the broken fridge freezer, the broken car, the heatwave, the problems before and after surgery, the hives, and everything. On top of that, I was able to walk to our favourite restaurant without either boot or crutches. It’s worth celebrating, at any rate.
The Charm Quark is the pseudonym for Joely Black, a writer and academic with an obsession for dragons. She has a PhD in Historical Geography from Lancaster University, and is now working on a second in Classics from the University of Manchester. The best part of it is telling people she studies Ancient Magic for a living. She also writes fantasy fiction under the titles Amnar and Five Empires. She lives in Manchester with her partner, Dragon’s Claws, a cat and the best two rats in the world.
If you like this work, please considering buying her a coffee. Everything here runs on coffee:
Buy Joely Black a Coffee. ko-fi.com/joelyblack
Ko-fi.com - Helping creators get paid with a 'Buy Me a Coffee' button.
Or you can sign up to her newsletter: