Coming towards the end of the PhD

As I come towards the end of my time blogging (I can’t believe I’m almost finished – the time has flown!), I’m also nearing the end of my PhD, which I’m hoping to finish at the end of this year. Coming to the end of my doctoral study is …. I’m struggling for words. It’s a whole host of emotions.

Most of all, I’m stressed. It’s funny – some days I’ll look at my thesis completion plan and feel full of confidence. I think, ‘that’s doable, I can get this done, bring it on!’. Other days my heart sinks, the doom and gloom part of me wakes up, and tells me ‘this is impossible. Look at all the stuff you have to do in such a short amount of time. You’ll never do it’. It’s very strange oscillating so rapidly between these two extremes, but I guess they’re both motivating, in their own ways. When I’m confident, I simply get on with work, determined because I’m sure that it’s possible. When I’m not (and this, I suspect, is a result of my huge stubbornness), I decide to fight back, refusing to accept that it’s not doable.

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The second-biggest emotion I’m feeling is fear, because I still don’t know what my final thesis will be like. I’m scared of it being good enough – the imposter syndrome is really starting to kick in now I’m in full-blown editing mode. I recently finished editing a chapter that, on the first draft, my supervisor was really happy with. So, when it came to editing, I thought I would have much less to do than on some other chapters. I was wrong. I found fault with almost all of it, and drastically re-wrote the whole thing. I think this is in part a result of my perfectionism, which makes it difficult to be able to get things finished, to let go, and to feel like what I’ve done is good enough. I’m constantly pushing myself to be better, and do better. This is something I’m trying to tackle at the moment, which is especially important now I’m finishing – at some point in the next 6 months I will have to say to myself, ‘this is the best I can do, there is no better’. That will be a huge challenge.

I’m also scared of what comes next. Finishing my PhD will be such a big change – I’ve been in higher education my entire adult life, having gone straight through from school, to my BA, to my MLitt, and finally to my PhD. I’ve never worked full time, so it’s going to be a huge adjustment when I take that step. It feels really strange to think about how drastically my life is going to change once I’m finished. Adding to this is the fear of not knowing where I will be this time next year, or what I will be doing. I’m the type of person who really likes planning, and knowing exactly what to do. At the moment though, there are no plans, which is a struggle for me (to put it mildly!), but also exciting. I’ve never been at such a huge crossroads in my life. It’s a totally new chapter.

But, throughout my PhD, I’ve learnt that I can’t let fear hold me back. Even though this will probably be the biggest change of my life so far, there’s no point worrying about it. I like to believe that everything happens for a reason, so I’m going to remind myself to trust that whatever happens next is what is supposed to, and I’ll end up exactly where I should be.

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And in any case, with the biggest change comes the biggest accomplishment. I can’t wait for the day when I can hold my complete thesis in my hand, knowing that all the blood, sweat and tears that I poured in over the last 3 and a half years have been worth it, and have produced this tangible object that I can hold, knowing that I didn’t give up along the way (which it would have been all too easy to do), that I reached the top of the mountain. I can’t even imagine how it’s going to feel, but I’m willing to put in the hard work to find out.

We are always seeking new guest bloggers! If you have an idea for a blog post or would like to informally discuss writing for the SGSAH blog please get in touch with Lizzie via email at egm9@st-andrews.ac.uk or connect with the blog on Twitter

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