August 4, 2012
Oh hey, you there. Yes, you! Internet, isn’t it? Yeah, yeah, I THOUGHT it was! You might not remember me. We used to see each other here a while back. Y’know, I was the one wearing mostly black? My clothing...full of holes… you remember? Hair…dishevelled? Yes, the ADHDer PhDer - that’s right — that’s me! Wow, it’s been some time hasn’t it? So how’ve you been?
It’s been a fair old while. Let’s just get the
excuses reasons for that out of the way dead quick shall we? Last time we chatted I’d just handed in the PhD thesis. It’s all good. I had my viva on the 15th June and am pleased to say I passed. Very relieved, delighted, over le moon etc etc. But the trauma that was “writing up” (a trauma resulting in neuroses that I treated you all to in (ir)regular instalments) has left me with an actual hatred/aversion/perhaps even full on phobia to being alone with my computer. I can just about handle a quick consultation with Professor Google in an attempt to work out what the odd little creepy beasties who are colonising my kitchen might be.* But only just. And only then if there’s somebody with me. I really need to sort this shit out a) because it’s sort of inconvenient and 2) because it’s a really lame kind of crazy.
So, in a nutshell, that’s what’s new with me Internet. I have passed the PhD and I have a newly acquired anxiety to add to my little collection. I may be a total fruit loop but at least I’ll soon be Dr Fruit Loop and you’ve got to admit that has a certain ring to it.
Here’s some other stuff I’ve done since then:
1) Went on a weekend away with 7 friends. Fun, frolics and hangovers were had by all. I also got some injuries from playing badminton in a bikini. Mostly injuries of the sunburn variety but one which I think is a hamstring injury (never located my hamstrings before – didn’t think I had any).
2) Grumbled incessantly about the Olympics. Again, another post for that one.
c) Noticed that the only people not banging on about the Olympics this summer are people getting married. People who are getting married don’t care about the Olympics. They care about tablecloths and other small details. But they do so with all the enthusiasm, energy and focus of Team GB. I find it all very tiring. But I am a bit of a bah-humbug about this kind of thing (y’know romance and that) and as I am more than happy to have sex out of wedlock I guess I am unlikely to ever be bitten by the wedding bug. Or is that not how it works?
4) Celebrated Yorkshire Day by skeptically raising one eyebrow and muttering, ‘Waste of bluddy time’ under my breath. Ah, my people, *sigh* I do miss you sometimes.
*more on that later. I am untidy but I am not unclean. I have no idea what these little fuckers are but I cannot eat in that kitchen until they’re gone. Every night I exterminate, every morning they’re back. It’s like that scene from that film with that guy and all the insects – yeah, that one, Indiana Whatjamacallhim.
May 7, 2012
Ha ha! So much for my countdown to submission. I think that was probably a little optimistic what with the all-nighters and the fact that three days before submission my eyes and fingers were bleeding from reading and writing.
But I did submit on time – a statement that would have been less anti-climactic had I made it on the day of submission rather than 10 days later.
But I have only just started to feel that I can look at this computer again, having developed a hatred for it that almost rivals my hatred for Microsoft Word. I think the dislike was mutual as once the last superfluous comma was deleted and the last footnote checked, my laptop went on strike and I have only just been able to coax it into compliance. It might have been something to do with the twenty-gabillion software updates that I hadn’t been able to spare the time to install because that would have meant shutting down the forty or so bazillion tabs open in firefox, one of the (insert improbably large number) applications I had open at any one time. I imagine the poor laptop felt like I have felt for the last ten days – totally burned out.
The whole thing has felt a bit of anti-climax really. This is something I was prepared for. I reckon this is partially down to complete exhaustion followed by the limbo that is waiting for the viva. But also it’s because the last 3.5 years (and especially the last few months) have been so intensely focused on one thing that it takes more than a few days to adjust to the fact that it isn’t there anymore. I still feel guilty when I oversleep at weekends. I still hesistate before committing to arrangements with friends, still prefix the idea of everything I would like to do with the thought ‘When I finish the PhD…’*
Here’s some things I planned to do post-submission:
1) Go to Brighton for a couple of days in the sun (ha ha ha ha SUN!)
2) Binge-drink often and completely (until I feel as though I am vomiting my own eyeballs)
3) Spend time with friends who I have neglected horribly
4) Go on my friend’s hen do
5) Go and see my Grandma who I have also neglected
6) Make some scones
Here are some things I have actually done:
1) Watch rain from the window and wonder if I can make it to the shop for more packets of instant noodles without having to put plastic bags round my feet inside my poor broken boots
2) Sleep (I’m talking marathon sleeps here. I sleep for so long that I wake up severely dehydrated and my fingernails have started growing into the palms of my hands)
3) Not answered emails or texts or making plans with friends or drinking or doing anything remotely social in nature. Just no energy. I went for lunch with my brother and sis-in-law and felt as though I was watching a video of the three of us talking rather than participating in the conversation. Also it was raining and I had bags on my feet and when I got home I was so exhausted I slept for a further 12 hours.
4) Not gone on my friend’s hen do this weekend. It was a glamping (glamerous + camping = fun portmanteau) and although I’m not generally a big fan of the hen do, I think any other weekend I’d have really enjoyed it. But the others would have been out frolicking in the woods drinking champagne and building camp fires and I would have been asleep under a sleeping bag/pile of coats/pile of moss and dead leaves for the entire weekend.
5) Watched all fifteen series of Silent Witness. Bloody good show if you ignore the gaping plot holes and the inability of any of the pathologsts to undertake only activities falling within their job descriptions. Dr Alexander, Dr Cunningham, whilst you’re sniffing the stomach contents of that cadaver could you also negotiate world peace? Oh, and while you’re at it, how about working out how we can have 166% of April’s average rainfall in 10 days and still be in flipping drought? I realise that’s quite a heavy workload but you could always delegate some of that interrogation of suspects or family liaison work to… oh, I don’t know, the police?? By the way, you know you have seen too much Silent Witness if you go for a massage (in order to relax) and imagine that you’re on the slab in the hands of an impossibly attractive and implausibly well-slept pathologist.
6) I did almost make some scones but realised that I didn’t have mixing bowl, couldn’t find the weighing scales and couldn’t be arsed to convert US cups into grams.
The day of the hand-in was also somewhat of a disappointment. I spent several hours vomiting in the morning followed by several hours on a train trying not to vomit into one of the plastic carrier bags I had to take off one foot as a precaution. The cause of the vomiting remains a mystery but no doubt Drs Alexander and Cunningham could work it out in the course of two one hour episodes whilst simultaneously disproving the big bang.
Nevertheless, although I’ve not been particularly energetic or euphoric, I am happy, relieved and looking forward to a summer of a normal 9-5 and weekends and evenings where I can do whatever the fuck I want. I intend to enjoy this free time, and this achievement (whatever the outcome of the viva). No doubt I will still write numerous posts about how shit everything is but that’s one of the ways I enjoy myself so whatevs.
Here’s a snap of me on the day my thesis became an actual object that I could hold in my hands. Those of you who have met me in real life will be able to see the ravages of thesis hell on my face (that’s supposed to be a smile and it’s supposed to indicate pleasure but I think it indicates the pain of 3 hours sleep in as many days). Those of you who have not met me in real life will just have to believe me when I say I am not in fact a ninety-year old woman with two black eyes.
* of course it might not be finished. It may not even pass. But I am determined to recognise the achievement of having got as far as handing it in. For the moment, it feels finished, if not finished with.
April 19, 2012
As I sit here at my desk, in my study, the desk lamp throws my shadow squarely across the page. This shadow is made up of all the elements of me that I know I am supposed to edit out of this thesis.
The shadow of the PhD student who writes is a twenty-nine year old, white, British woman with one ovary. She has recently been going through a bout of insomnia, is struggling to pay the bills, and is experiencing all of the standard anxieties of a final year doctoral student with a few others thrown in for good measure.
When I sit down at this desk to write my thesis, she is my shadow. But at other times, when I email friends, when I feel guilty about not visiting my ninety-three year old grandmother more often, or when I accidentally spend most of Sunday reading novels in the bath, I am not the shadow cast by a PhD candidate sitting before a laptop and a desk-lamp.
In this chapter, I am letting the shadow write too. I am speaking in both of my voices, because I realise as I read back through the other chapters in this thesis, that the shadow’s voice was never quite silenced anyway. It was she who spent hours reading the blogs of infertile women because it was she who had her ovary removed in Lewisham hospital in 2005. It was she who first read A Room of One’s Own, before the PhD student picked up a copy, and it was she who first thought of the avatar as her own online self-portraiture, an idea that the PhD student took up and ran with.
Woolf may have written about the autobiographical ‘I’ as overshadowing the feminine, but here, in this thesis where as Leigh Gilmore would say, it is ‘not licensed’, it is the autobiographical ‘I’ that is liberating me from the shadows, allowing me to walk back into this thesis that I write.
April 17, 2012
‘But as computers become common-place objects in daily life – in leisure and learning as well as in work – everyone will have the opportunity to interact with them in ways where the machine can act as a projection of part of the self, a mirror of the mind.’
This was Sherry Turkle in 1984. If this screen is a mirror of my current state of mind, and the reflection is to be represented in text:
hgghrhagiogi[mamf hrrhup qp939
Despite rereading my argument that we’re not disembodied in virtual life, I have to admit I feel weirdly disembodied in real life today. Or wrongly embodied. As though somebody switched with me in the night and my hands and legs don’t feel quite right. That sounds very dramatic. I’m just tired – but probably no more so than most new parents (and I have the promise of uninterrupted sleep in a few days – win!). I am making a fuss here because it makes me feel better. It is the mirror of my mind, after all, and if the great Shezza Turkle says it, it must be true
The British Library has quietened down a little. It always thins out after 5pm. Just the hardcore crew left now. The desperate. Or maybe they just brought packed lunches so they weren’t a) forced to pay £6.95 for a sandwich, or b) driven home by starvation. There’s a few of them though with that ‘deadline look’ – the one i see in my face when I look in the mirror. The real mirror that is – not the mirror of my mind.
Having said that, both reflections are equally horrifying just now.
April 16, 2012
10 days ’till hand in
8 days ’till binders.
Last night I couldn’t sleep. I started counting sheep. Little fluffy lambs jumping over a gate. I got to 640 which is, I think, the highest I’ve ever counted in one sitting. Achievements a-plenty here in Wonderland, I tell you. After 640 the sheep stopped jumping over a gate and began to mill about in that way sheep do until I couldn’t tell which ones I’d counted and which ones I hadn’t. I guess that’s why sheep have splodges of paint on them. Anyroad, there were a shit load of sheep in my head before I finally fell asleep.
It’s no wonder I can’t sleep. On the one hand I feel tired to my bones. Like that feeling you get when you’re sickening for something and your legs ache like bastards from walking up a flight of stairs. On the other hand I feel constantly like I’ve had about 15 cups of coffee.
I am currently wading through my proofreaders’ corrections and comments. Obviously it’s reassuring that they have picked up on them before the examiners scrutinise it all but when I re-read some of my 3am typos and sentences all mangled like a game of twister I wonder how I was ever allowed to enrol on a PhD in the first place.
An additional hindrance is that Audrey has taken to howling loudly (yes, howling, not meowing) unless I let her sit on a) my proofread chapters b) my laptop or c) my shoulders. However awkward it is to write with a cat on your shoulders, it’s less detrimental than the first two options.
April 15, 2012
Hello again, Internet.
It’s been a while. But I have a really good excuse. I have never worked so bloody hard in my life. I am exhausted. In twelve days time I will hand in my PhD thesis (ADHD, Microsoft Word, and other complicating factors permitting).
Although it is twelve days till submission, it is only ten days till thesis needs to be at the binders, all polished, formatted, referenced, bibliographied, and pdf’d. I am at work for four of those days.
10 minus 4 = PANIC!
PANIC = immediate urge to write blog post.
This equation can be simplified as 6 days = blog.
Which makes no mathematical sense but nevertheless, I intend to chronicle these last few days so that one day I can read them back and remember the pain and the panic, the abandonment of every other thought and activity (save those required to maintain the most basic standard of hygiene), and the curious floaty feeling that comes from awakening from a four hour sleep unable to determine whether Microsoft Word’s snotty little notifications were dream or reality.
An observation: panic/adrenaline–call it what you will–really focuses the brain. Apart from a relapse of my obsession with growing strawberries and other forms of vegetation unsuitable for attic windowsills, procrastination has been markedly less over the past couple of weeks. There’s prob an explanation along the lines of adrenaline substituting the missing dopamine or some such but if it works then i’m not questioning it. I do have some regrets when I think that if I could have worked at even half this intensity for even half of my PhD registration period then the panic I am experiencing now would be proportionally less. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have approx 250,000 words of facebook status updates, tweets, and blog posts to show for it so, y’know, it’s a net win….
So there we have it. 12 days to go.
Number of words over word limit: 400 (down from 6000 four days ago)
Number of pages: 320
Number of footnotes: 483
Number of spelling and grammatical errors: Too many for Word to continue displaying them, according to one of its snarky messages.
Number of times I’ve left the flat this weekend: 0
Number of pregnancy dreams where the foetus I have incubated for 3.5 years finally makes an appearance and turns out to be a stuffed animal/old trainer/dead strawberry plant/other kind of damp squib: 8
February 27, 2012
Well, well, well.
Apparently, Satan started out in universities. Now, I’ve known some Grade A dickbags in my ten years in UK higher education. And the United States has more people, therefore you’d expect there to be a correspondingly greater number of dickbags. But Satan? I’m not convinced.
Don’t get me wrong. Some of them come pretty close. For my first example, there’s the guy who keeps quoting totally random passages from obscure works of literature and then goes all eye-rolly and tutty so that he looks like he’s having a seizure and you can hear the contempt clogging and congealing in his throat as he says ‘What are people reading these days. How can you get through life without knowing that?’
Or, take the girl who, waiting for a taxi outside my college, turned to her clone/friend and said, ‘Oh. My. God! Where is this taxi? Like, I totes shouldn’t have to wait for a taxi driver, they should totes have to wait for me. Which is why I’m calling the cab, and they’re driving it.’
Or, the guy who told me that if I stuck with him, he could open the doors of academia to me and show me a world that I’d always been exempt from.
Anyway, all of these people are probably a bit evil. Like maybe three-quarters evil but without the last quarter that tips people over the edge of almighty tosspiece-ness and into y’know Satanism.
Maybe I’ve just not being paying attention. Perhaps lurking in the library, creeping through the campus, hiding in the halls, there are all these little Satans disguised by their floppy, side-swept fringes, implausibly large spectacles, and jeans so skinny they are unable to climb a flight of stairs without flicking their legs out from the knee at alarming angles.
But if so then I have questions.
Does Satan have to pay his student loan back?
If Satan graduated with third-class honours, what are the implications of this for his future employment prospects? Would it in fact impair his chances of founding Satanism as a succesful start-up?
Is Satan eligible for student discounts, and if so, what’s his position on pound-a-pint nights and other such revelry?
Finally, does he get homesick in his first week, fall in love with a nice girl in freshers week and then spend his whole three years missing out on the single-life before getting dumped just in time for graduation?
I know I have completely missed the point of the article, and I fully intended to make a serious point about how moronic the whole thing is but I got distracted, and my mind went merrily on its way. So all that remains to be included is the following disclaimer.
***Disclaimer: I have no intention of causing offence to anybody who has strong feelings either way about Satan. If you hate and renounce Satan then hopefully there’s no harm done here and if you love him, well you probs will take offence but it’s also probs the least of your…er…probs. The views expressed in this post are entirely my own and are not shared by any person living or dead and bear no factual accuracy to anything. Any offence taken is entirely the responsibility of the offended party but this does not affect your statutory rights. Only one voucher per person. Offer not valid on Saturdays.
February 24, 2012
Something odd happened this morning, Internet.
I woke up with a familar fuzzy-headedness that could well have been the fault of the wine consumed last night with a certain shiny friend of mine (Hi, Shiny!). But I don’t think so. You see, as I went about my morning routine I became aware that I was thinking in rhyme. You know when you do a little mental commentary of your actions and talk to yourself in the second person? It mostly happens when you’re a bit drunk, like this:
‘Now the reason you’re feeling a little bit sick is more likely to be this bumpy bus-driver than the amount of heineken you have just consumed, so don’t beat yourself up because that won’t help with the nausea. The main thing to do is remember where you’ve put your keys so that you don’t have to look for them on the doorstep because a) that’s where the muggers hang out and b) you already need a wee and that’s only going to get worse.’
I refuse to believe that this is not a universally experienced symptom of intoxication. Sometimes I even nod to myself in agreement. I’m doing it now.
Anyway, this morning a similar thing happened but my brain must have slept on itself funny and it woke up with a crick in its interior monologue synapse (or IMS as it’s known in the completely made up school of neurology in which I am valedictorian), and this resulted in a completely involuntary urge to rhyme my thoughts in the following manner:
‘Half a cup of coffee in a mug for me, cool enough to drink by the time I’ve had a wee’
‘Don’t give into pressure from hungry little cat, calorie reduction will prevent him getting fat’
‘Don’t get distracted, there’s just no time, it’s a little perturbing, this thinking in rhyme’
‘Today must be productive, a PhD bonanza, failure not an option, do-de-doo-de-do-rananza’
(When the spirit of improvisation failed me, I just made words up. It was a compulsion, I couldn’t help it)
Anyway, I have added this strange phenomenon to the list of side-effects that I am compiling in order to submit them to the company that makes ‘Sleep Well’ herbal sleep tablets. They have been reasonably effective in their improvement of my recent bout of insomnia, and in all fairness they do warn you not to consume alcohol with a dose, but still… I think it only fair that they include the following in the list of possible side-effects:
- Compulsive Rhyming
- Impulsive gherkin-eating
- Repulsive night sweats
- Propulsive vomiting
According to google, two of the above are possible symptoms of pregnancy, and two of them are possible symptoms of stress and anxiety. I am fairly sure that my total clusterfuck of a reproductive system makes the latter explanation far more likely than the former yet neither account for why I would wake up one morning to find I am thinking in rhyme. Answers on a postcard to:
‘Fuct int ‘ead’ PO BOX: At least I’m not Dead (yet).
February 10, 2012
As the morning tips into the afternoon I have, as yet, nothing to report other than that my cat has a bout of cystitis and now hates me for dragging her to the vet in the slushy snow. Other than giving me the cold shoulder, she is in fine spirits now but I think it will take me a little longer to recover from the snarling Alsatian with a taste for frightened cat.
I hate going to the vet. It’s distressing for everyone involved. Plus, the vets’ waiting rooms of south east london are full of some of the noisiest and smelliest animals you can imagine. Thankfully, their pets are a delight *BA BOOM!* (thank you, watch me as I take a little bow).
Anyway, I am now back in the warmth of my study with an instant coffee (damned economy drive – more on my church mouse-ness another day) and a sulky cat, I am turning my attention to the thesis abstract I need to send off today in order to register my ‘intention to submit’ the actual thesis at some point in the (hopefully) not too distant future. As the thesis is mostly written, this shouldn’t take too long to write a one-page abstract, but I also have to submit my final, actual, definite title for the thesis and this is causing me to chew my lower lip into a bloody pulp of indecision.
I am crap at titles. Absolutely crap. I can’t even choose a blog title without making a chamomile tea and drawing up a list of pros and cons. As you may have noticed from our long-standing relationship, Internet, brevity is not my thing. And titles need to be short, snappy and accurate. Ideally, they should have an element of wit, and yet failed attempts at this end up sounding like a Daily Mail headline and, as I’m sure you’ll agree, that would be a “Pun-damental” flaw in my plan to convince my examiners I am worthy of a title of my own.
Fortunately perhaps for me, academic studies tend to make full and frequent use of the colon as a way of marrying catchy but pointless title with boring but descriptive subtitle. Something like:
Alluringly Alliterative Accolades: the boring story of some lesser-known public figure 1847-1888
The Rise and Fall of Someone or Something: the thesis sounds more interesting if presented as a rise and fall even if nobody cares about the rise and fall therein.
Bold but Irrelevant Statement: How I intend to make my fave quote relevant to actual content of thesis.
It’s not the bracket (my puntuating weapon of choice) but it’ll just have to do. Or, sometimes, the colon is replaced by the question mark as follows…
Rhetorical Question? It may be rhetorical and out of context but I’m going to answer it anyway.
Ok, now I’ve had a bit of a practice, I’m going to try to fit my thesis topic into one of the above templates. Wish me luck!
February 7, 2012
Seriously wordpress? Stop moving things about. Don’t you know some of us have ADHD? Sort it out.
That said, it’s been a few weeks since I blogged regularly. I don’t like the interruption of regularity. Blogging, like moving one’s bowels, should be a business of regularity and routine. Otherwise I find everything gets all backed up, I spend the intervening time grumpy and bloated, and what finally emerges is either a small, mean, wizened offering, or else an unstoppable rush of, well….the metaphor speaks for itself, surely.
I also find that without the regularity of what we might call (for these purposes), the ‘brain dump,’ I have little appetite for new thoughts, and so the whole gastrointestinal tract of thought (what? people totally say gastrointestinal tract of thought, no?) grinds to a halt. Indeed I haven’t had one new or interesting thought since New Year, as evidenced by this scatalogically themed post.
You know what though? I’ve been dead busy, Internet. Really, truly, actually busy. You know that new job I started back in November? They work me hard. They seem to think I am quite competent, but do you know how many hours of covering my mistakes and waving my hands either side of my ears in panic it takes to cultivate that impression, Internet? Many hours. Many many hours.
It’s not just the job either. I have been writing my PhD. I’m just going to go ahead and say that once again because the novelty of productivity has by no means yet worn off. I have been writing my PhD. It is getting written and I am the one writing it (just to be clear, no one else is writing it. It represents entirely my own endeavours etc etc).
Other things I have been doing aside from the above:
1) Planning the bloody deaths of all those who ask ‘Is the thesis done yet?’ ‘Have you finished now?’ or variations on that theme.
2) Obsessing about the following note written by one of my downstairs neighbours (she has a seperate entrance and post box and I’ve never met her):
‘Please bring down the weekly Grazia magazine when it is delivered upstairs by mistake. Thank you.’
That’s it! No name or anything! I mean, all the necessary ingriedients of a polite note are there (mainly the pleases and thank yous) but it still reads more like an order than a request. Or an order that’s supposed to sound like a request. Such as,
‘Please use the sanitary bins provided. Thank you.’
‘Please do not park on this driveway. Thank you.’
Or, I dunno,
‘Please come up and get your cocking weekly Grazia magazine when it is delivered upstairs by mistake. Thank you.’
I think I might find therapy to be greatly beneficial. Until then dear Internet, I have you.