It is just over six months since my PhD viva. Inspired by Dr Jackie Kirkham's account, I thought I would reflect on what is possibly one of the most surreal (and nerve-wracking) experiences I've ever had.
The PhD was a long slog. Years of work, months of uncertainty, self-doubt and perhaps a little procrastination thrown in for good measure. When I think back, the actual content and work associated with the PhD wasn't really the difficult part. I was fortunate to be studying a) something I was interested in b) something I knew a lot about. Why then was it so stressful? I think of the PhD process as more of an endurance test rather than anything else. For too long I worried about trying to sound "clever", I seemed to just be writing my own little story. Essentially that's what it was though, a story of my own research. It took me literally years to realise this.
At school and university I did well, not because I am particularly clever but because I worked hard and applied myself. I had an absolute blast as an undergraduate and although I wasn't overly academic, I knew that if I worked hard, revised for exams and handed in coursework then I'd be ok. And I was. However the PhD was a different game altogether. I can honestly say that throughout the whole process I never quite felt "clever enough" and constantly thought that my work was not up to scratch. I kept thinking that somehow I would get "found out", that they (the university) would realise that I wasn't fit for the task at hand. I suppose deep down I had faith in my department, they wouldn't have let me do a PhD if they didn't think I could. I would be very wealthy if I had a pound for each time I told myself that!
The following week I went for an interview for a job at Cardiff University, still trying to absorb the viva result, and ended up getting the job. I could not believe it. To say that I feel lucky would be an understatement. After all this time I still feel a bit like a fraud though, like somehow "they" (whoever "they" might be) are going to say that there has been a mistake. This imposter syndrome is slowly going away but hasn't completely left me. Maybe it never does? Aside from the research, I learned so much about myself doing the PhD and it's definitely something I would recommend to others. Now. If you asked me that a year ago I would have perhaps said something just a little bit different!
Oh and by the way - I can now bear to look at my thesis again! Hurrah!