Sunday, October 24, 2010

I think I want to be a linguist

Well the last month has run the gamut of emotions, at least as far as my PhD was concerned.

I prepared to present at a conference and felt immensely unworthy and ill-prepared. My first attempt at my presentation bored me. I analysed and collated my data only to feel as if I was stating the obvious.

I attended workshops before the conference and the conference itself and felt immensely inspired and motivated to read and analyse and research.

I attended presentations at the conference and heard about research that I'd love to participate in and thought for the first time, "I think I want to be a linguist".

For the first time also I reached a high point in my PhD. Not as in a climax or a highlight, but a moment from which I could look back on what I've done and see ahead to what I might do. I realised I was half way through my degree. That I had one year left of analysis and research, then six months of thesis writing, and then I'd be done. That scared me at first. I realised I had two months to completely shift focus to another area of my research and prepare to attend two conferences, which I still didn't know how I would fund (I've since pulled out of one). But I could see what I wanted to do, I could trace the steps. I thought about a gantt chart (stupid things) to plan my progress. I had to do one anyway for my annual review anyway. One of the good things about getting into this degree was simply the peace of mind of knowing what I'd be doing for a few years. For several years before, I never knew what I'd be doing from year to year. And that's really irritating when you want to sign up for a 24 month plan for a mobile phone, or decide whether to rent a place and live independently, or buy anything that you might not use if you went away. But at the same time, within the degree, I feel like I've kind of stumbled from one topic to another. But now I can see what I've covered, and I know what I need to do and what I need to look at before I can write. One of the most perspective-shifting pieces of advice I got wasn't even aimed at me, but relayed from a friend who it was told to: Just do what you've got to do to to finish your PhD. And that reassured me. We don't have to change the world with our PhD. This gives us the qualification to do more. And to get paid more to do it!

And then in the week after the conference I got a bit sick and couldn't quite do everything I wanted. Books couldn't be borrowed or had to be read in the library. I didn't have access to photocopiers. And so everything slows down until you're back to your normal level of apathy, where the urgency dissipates and the momentary compulsion isn't quite followed by the long-term commitment and responsibility that you might hope. 

I still haven't sat down and charted how many months I'll allocate to each area I need to cover. I'm still trying to read the things I need to read before I can do the things I need to do before I can prepare my presentation for the conference in six weeks. But at least I know what I need to do and I know what I want to say and I have a glimpse, just a glimpse, of creating something new and shiny and bright. Something I can be proud of and something from which, if I'm lucky, I might just forge a career.

Perhaps coincidentally, two nights ago a friend called from France to offer me her job in six months' time when she will be promoted. It's a marketing job, so I would be selling out a little to take it. And I won't have finished my PhD by then. And I'm not sure that I want to live in France. But it's good to know the opportunities are out there and I'm not the only one who sees the benefits of being, for better or worse, a linguist.

No comments:

Post a Comment