That moment when I almost quit the PhD

I knew doing a PhD was going to be hard. If I had the luxury of living in a bubble, well away from life, a PhD would be a doddle. In reality, life is complicated and spare time always has a list of competing pressures: home, kids, work, fun and all the other little things that make us all say “wow, where did today go”.

So this year I have actually done quite a lot of work on the PhD. I’ve done a lot of work focusing it and re-writing the literature review several times in response. But then life keeps on piling up the pressure and I have guilt. I am not doing enough. I am not good enough … and the mind loops that drop out of that kind of thinking.

I almost gave up. I missed a big deadline and tried to justify that by believing my other priorities got in the way. But they didn’t. I just let them pile up and become distracted by things that I do genuinely care about – and want to rail against – but ultimately when those things (and people) don’t prioritise me – then I have myself to blame if I get sucked in. In short, I’ve learned that I don’t like randomness at all. I accept it exists, but there are people and places to avoid – because I don’t have time to chart a path through randomness and need to find clear markers – be that people who deliver/care/support or event which help me feel a little better about what I’m doing.

Most of all, I didn’t quit because I don’t like to quit. I like to think that if my horse is dead, that I’ll get off it. But it isn’t dead. I do want to ride it to the finish line.  So I’ve got my list of priorities, and it’s far from singular. But I won’t be packing up just yet as my 14 year old managed to give me that sense of purpose that I’d lost somewhere in the fog.

I need to avoid investing time in people/things which don’t appear to provide any reciprocal benefit to the things I care most about. Seems obvious.