Philippa’s blog – 30 September 2013

On Resilience

For my second offering I thought I’d write about resilience (or bounce-back-ability), mainly because it is something I’m sadly lacking at the moment! Whilst I suppose that’s to be expected towards the end of a big project such as a PhD, that thought isn’t too reassuring right now. Problems, failures and rejections are something that everybody in the world goes through at some point. The question I’ll be exploring here is quite how one might deal with those experiences.

Last week I wrote about how my work/life balance has been out of kilter over the summer and that sense of being drained obviously affects a person’s sense of resilience and capability. And, I KNOW just how important it is to keep going when stuff gets difficult or goes wrong.

I ploughed through the process of writing my first journal article in July 2012. It was subsequently rejected by two journals; went through major revisions at the third journal I approached; and then a final stage of minor revisions before the article was finally accepted in August 2013. I had been told by numerous senior academics that rejection was to be expected and I could just about see that the important thing was to start the publication process. Still, the first rejection still hit me hard when it came and I did my usual mental run through of alternative career choices before ‘manning-up’ a few months later and writing some revisions.

I had similar dramas whilst applying for PhD funding: I had set my heart (fairly randomly) on going to a particular institution and then didn’t quite get the scholarship I’d applied for there. A few months later, everything had worked out fine and I received funding at Manchester, but again it really didn’t seem like it would at the time.

I’d imagine that a lot of people want to throw their thesis or dissertation into a conveniently situated bin/pond/bonfire at some point before they submit them. I’m also certain that 99.9% of the time that’s probably not the right thing to do. By now, I really should have learnt that panicking about work doesn’t help with anything much. I wasted months during the first year of my PhD hanging in some inertia of doubt and inadequacy which was both depressing and entirely unproductive.

As far as I can tell, the only solution to this sorry state of affairs is to either abandon academia or do some work, then be pleased if it is received favourably or redo it if not. Both of these outcomes are bound to happen at some point. In the latter case, evidence suggests that keeping crying, sulking and tantrums to a minimum makes for a more efficient process.

So, whilst I’m still moaning to anybody who will listen about my altogether new yet compelling desire to go and work at a supermarket, I’m also trying to focus on the next little task and get it done. Because otherwise I’ll have wasted the last three years of my life, I’ll have a big gap to explain on my CV and I will NEVER get to tick the Dr box on application forms.

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