Massively stuck in a rut at the moment. This comes after an awesome week at Farnborough International Airshow last week, which was awesome for many, many reasons: notably awesome company, awesome stuff to see, rewarding engagement with the public and it not being my PhD. So, after a week of mega Highs, I’ve had a week of mega Lows and another inevitable look into the mirror at who I am and what I’m doing.
At the moment, I just want to Escape. Where to? Pfft, anywhere. Last week was kind of like the most magical Escape ever, what with working an 80-or so hour week with Farnborough and the Headstart Design Triathlon, since not only were both of them super-fun but also I didn’t really have time to stop and think about my problems or worries. Skip forward a week, and things are the complete opposite: sure, life is a rollercoaster and has ups and downs, blah blah blah, but usually they’re rarely this violent or placed so close together. I’d just love to run away somewhere and hide out for an indefinite amount of time; barricade myself in a fortress of pillows in a long-forgotten cave and sleep away eternity. Running away from problems, though, is rarely a viable solution, but it seems too tiring and depleting to tackle them head-on right now: I just don’t have the energy or willpower to fight them, so retreating to a completely comatose state devoid of feelings sounds almost like heaven right now. It’s all just too much, and I’m feeling hugely overwhelmed with Life in general.
Also following such a busy week of meeting and talking to so, so many people, the return back to everyday life makes me feel so alone. Maybe it’s my brain trying to do the Escaping for me; shutting out everything and everyone in an attempt to wish my problems away. This sort of thing is normal service, bottling up the troubles and keeping out everyone who might try to tinker with them. It’s always been this way, and I’m not sure I know an alternative. There are some people I can talk freely and openly to (oddly enough, not even necessarily those I’ve known for a long time) but every so often the barrier opens enough to let someone in, to actually forge a real bond or connection. Meeting new people is always a constant strain: I’m always worried about how I come across, or trying so hard for others to ‘like’ me rather than just being myself. It’s when the blockade is truly disengaged that I make the best friendships, when I’m not pressurising myself to be the most likeable, talented or attractive homo sapien in existence, but just being content with presenting myself as I really am. There’s a great part from the end of The Ataris – The Hero Dies in this One that sums that all up pretty nicely: “The hardest part isn’t finding who we need to be, it’s being content with who you are.”
The PhD locomotive has slowed to an almost halt at the moment, and it’s almost impossible to either built up enough momentum to get through the day, or to maintain concentration for more the fifteen minutes before the inevitable desire to do anything else at all overwhelms. My work feels so unfinished, and so useless, and my energy stores are so empty that I don’t have the facilities to do anything about it. I came into my PhD fresh with enthusiasm, and ideals of creating or developing something that I could be proud of in three years’ time: what little I feel like I’ve achieved barely even classifies as something ‘new’. I’m disillusioned, dispirited and despaired with myself and my abilities. I don’t feel like I deserve a PhD at this stage, to be honest. And that’s pretty demoralising: I don’t think I’ve made enough of an impact to obtain a doctoral qualification yet, and the worry is that it’s still a long way off. Sure, supervisors are encouraging and hint that I’m being pessimistic, but it’s a constant battle with my own confidence. Then again, do I even care any more? If I finish my thesis and get rejected for a PhD but make it out with an MPhil, is that so bad? For many, coming out with an MPhil is worse than not bothering in the first place, but what difference does it really make in the end? Applying for jobs or a career is subjective (on the part of the employer) anyway, so if I’m looking to head into industry, those 3-4 years of research struggle probably tell a bigger story about my commitment and perserverence in the face of adversity than about my failure to obtain a full doctorate.
Good news? Well, there is some. Turns out that, as part of the University of Southampton Roadshow, I’m going to be representing our research group at Bestival, and in order to get extra tickets so one other from my group can come, I volunteered to give a half-hour talk in the ‘Bestiversity’ zone of the festival or a rolling daily schedule. So yeah, I’m playing Bestival. Stressing my balls off about it at the moment, but if I can nail it then it should be pretty fun and also a massive thing for both my confidence and CV. Plus, while I’m not au fait with much of the line-up (I don’t think Bestival is really aimed at me), I will relish the opportunity to see Justice live, plus there’s New Order, Gary Numan, Kavinsky and maybe Nero to go watch as well. Just need to whip a half-hour talk into shape in less than six weeks, is all…
Anyway, I’ve probably vented for long enough. I feel a little bit better for doing so, but if you’ve read this far down the post, you have to promise to do me a favour. Next time you ask me how I am, if I respond with “I’m fine,” don’t believe me. Keep asking me, because eventually I’ll break and explain the issues with the kind of gravity that they have rather than trying to brush them off. Things feel dark for me at the moment, but only because they were so light so long ago; and I’d like to recapture those photons and feel as energised as I did last week. I can’t run away from problems and I can’t keep them stored up forever. Open me up, and let the light in.