• Charlotte

1 year post-PhD reflections

At the start of January this year, I realised it had been one whole year since I passed my PhD viva, and it really struck me how much (but also how little?) had happened in the past year. It’s taken a few weeks for it to properly sink in, to think about what has happened, and the impact it has had. Here I share my early thoughts.

Work ethic. Which is a hot topic in academia, isn’t it. In one sense, I know I’ve worked my arse off this last year, with a book chapter being released after a couple of years work, and a few different papers being published in different journals, as well as 4 or so conference presentations in different places around the country. And that’s just from my PhD – I had small university-funded projects running both last year and this year, and that of course feeds into research time too. Whilst it feels like a lot on one hand, it also doesn’t feel like much at all. You always feel like you could have done more. One more conference, one more paper. I think half of the battle is accepting you can’t do everything, and actually, it’s bloody okay to have a life as well as work. It’s taken me this full year to quiet the ‘you should be writing’ nagging in my head, and just be comfortable with the pace I’m working at.

The PhD isn’t your best work. I’m not sure if this one gets talked about a lot. But I have really noticed this. This isn’t to say that the PhD work isn’t good, or isn’t important (for that amount of time spent on it you bloody better hope so!), but it’s most definitely not the best work I’ll ever do. I still struggle with writing. I really, really hate editing. But what my PhD has enabled me to do is really hone in on the stuff I’m good at. Whilst my PhD focused on women’s tattooed bodies, my areas of interest are now centred around class, gender, and intersectionality. These were important components of my PhD, but not the main focus. On reflection, I see how these were building blocks for me to approach my topic, and have become a core part of the research work I now do.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever fall down a rabbit hole like that again. I guess I’m too early in my career to say how future research projects may impact me, but I’m certain that I won’t fall in love/hate with something as much as I did my PhD. I realised this at the start of the year, at a conference I was presenting at. Bearing in mind, I hadn’t touched my PhD work for a good while, but I presented a part of the analysis I just loved. And it showed in my presentation! I rarely use notes anyway, but it just flowed like a conversation - I knew it so well, like the back of my hand, and I relished the questions (good and bad!) that followed. It made me realise how deep I got into that topic, and just how many angles I’d explored it from, from points of genuine curiosity as well as necessary explorations of seminal work. I enjoy the projects I’m working on at the moment, but nothing will compare to that all-encompassing nature of my PhD.

There’s still much more to say, and I’m sure more reflections will emerge during this ‘early-career’ stage of my work. It’s just interesting to see how much can happen in just a year.

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