So this is a short interlude….Actually it’s a long comment on Steve Kirk’s post – Of Dark Caves and Community.

I have been festering in a dark cave of silence for the past three months. Three months ago I was on a high, I had a proposal submitted that I had run past a potential supervisor and I was hopeful that finally I might get my PhD underway (it had only taken about 5 years to get to proposal stage!!).

Then a few weeks went by with no response, I was starting to get a bit edgy. Then the weeks turned into months and my edginess was replaced by a feeling of pointlessness: why bother contemplating devoting 5 years of my life to this? Why bother picking up an article and reading it when it seemed I’d never be starting my research? Perhaps I should turn my attention to smaller research projects – I wouldn’t need to wait around for anyone else then.

I should say at this point that the cause of the long delay in hearing back on my proposal is beyond anyone’s control, but I still felt like it was another cog in the machinations of fate, and that some ethereal force was telling me that actually my idea was no good and I should shelve any aspirations of doing a PhD, even that I was arrogant in the first place to think I could do one and that I should return my Birkenstocked size 6s back to earth.

Steve’s absolutely right. Community matters. I voiced by exasperation to a few; to some I knew would be sympathetic and to some I met only briefly at an Early Careers Researchers forum. I realised then that I had to give myself a kick up the arse and do something. I am, after all, the master of my own destiny. I approached another institution, another potential supervisor, and I have since received real encouragement. And it dawned on me … all I needed was someone to say my idea was an OK one. That let the light break through to illuminate my dark, dank cave.

So I guess I shouldn’t have pinned all my hopes on one supervisor in one institution. I should have sent my proposal to a couple of places to start with – you can’t be in two caves at the same time, can you? I also shouldn’t have stopped talking to people about it, that just got me more and more interred in my own insecurity.

I know that a PhD is a fairground ride of intense highs and lows (with all the thrill and terror that entails), but I didn’t expect to be a victim of this so soon! I know now that to stay positive, at this stage at least, all we need is affirmation: someone to say, “you know what, you’ve got a great idea here and I’d love to work with you on it”. That’s got me riding high… for now.


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