05 December 2010

How's the PhD?

What a peculiar question you are asked sometimes as a PhD student. How is my PhD, that's a good question. It's personified now. It's like a child or a wife. It's something I have to tend to, have a meaningful relationship with.

You can't ever answer the question: 'How's your PhD?' with 'Great! Couldn't be better!' No, you must have a sense of weight and seriousness — you need to look the part. '::heavy sigh:: Well...' Oh, I probably shouldn't have asked, sorry. 'Oh, no, no, it's going fine, it's just... No, no, it's fine. Making slow progress.' And then the other person nods knowingly, even if they don't have a PhD.

This isn't a question you ask of other degrees (How's the BA? or How's the MA?). No, only the PhD is a person, following you around and keeping you up at night with its incessant nattering. A colleague who just finished talked about it being a boot on his neck. Hell, I thought, really? A boot on your neck has been lifted? I thought we were being educated here.

Perhaps I believe too much in this process, in the PhD as a useful thing. I came in knowing why I needed it, and I am seeing how it will change my life for the better when I leave. I love the process of it and although it is like a boot on the neck in some ways, the adversity makes it all the more interesting. We're going to doctors when this is all done: if it were easy, everyone would be a doctor.

How is the PhD? Well, it's fine, thanks for asking. It'll be done soon enough.