Struggling with both fear and FOMO in academia

So I’m basically THE WORST when it comes to FOMO (fear of missing out, for those lucky enough not to know/care what it is). It applies to most aspects of my life, but since we’re chatting academia here (chatademia? Does that work? No…?) I’ll stick with examples from my life as a PhDer.

When I first started I signed up to SO MANY THINGS. I hadn’t realised it until I was chatting with some fellow PhD poets the other week and I was bemoaning my lack of involvement with PhD life. I’d forgotten that in my first year freshers week my name was on a ton of extra-curricular lists and I was attending meetings for all sorts of weird and wonderful groups that I was convinced would look g.r.e.a.t. on my CV in years to come. Guys, I nearly joined A RUGBY TEAM because I didn’t want to feel like I’d missed the chance to be part of a university sports team; the camaraderie! The tours! The delicious banquets they always seem to be attending! Erm, fact check: I hate team sports and also suck at them.


Things were pretty out of control. However, paired with this intense FOMO is the fact that I am also a MASSIVE flake. I mostly blame this on anxiety issues, and would even go so far as to rename it fear of joining in – FOJI, if you will. Needless to say FOJI kicked in after about three weeks of my first term and I ran away from all those lovely commitments. And I feel like it’s this fear that also means I’m here, headed into my third year (as my supervisor so kindly reminded me last week (and can I just say, some totally unintentional hard rhymes in that last sentence)) having yet to fully invest myself in the conference scene (is it a scene? A season? Like fashion week, but with more PowerPoint?)

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done a bunch of poetry readings over the last two years (though FOJI has, of course, forced me to withdraw participation on more than one occasion), and I’ve attended workshops and events to listen to amazing writers share their work. But I have a huge mental block when it comes to applying to present at conferences. Like, I wrote one line of one abstract once, and then I gave up.

I’m very scared of not being taken seriously as an academic. I get the impression that writing poems as a form of research is just a little bit sort of silly in the minds of most “real” academics, even within the world of arts & humanities. And then when they hear those poems are about animals, and talking animals no less, I might as well pack my little knapsack and move to Narnia for all they care. But then waaaaah, I see other creative writing students killing it at conferences and I’m like I MUST CHANGE MY HEATHEN WAYS!

Maybe conference applications will be my new year’s resolution this coming year (last January I vowed to join a choir, watch one musical every week and send a poem a week to a magazine/journal… oops!) Sadly I won’t be here to keep you posted as there will be a new blogger come February.

And on the note, if you’re interested in taking over the reigns, CLICK HERE and apply to be the next SGSAH blogger-in-residence! Closing date is tomorrow though, so be quick. I promise, it’s really fun AND you get to chat with loads of excellent PhD students around Scotland about their research.

(I also just remembered I had a dream last night that the SGSAH were giving away free transfer tattoos to all PhD students (a great marketing tool, right??) and the tattoo was a swan design that incorporated the SGSAH logo. I was meant to draw a picture of it for y’all! Maybe later in the week…)

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