Friday, 12 December 2014

1 year on from PhD hand-in

Its been 1 year since I handed in! It was a proud moment in life, but also one of the most anticlimactic moments in it to. Explaining that to people is really difficult, but I will give it a go.

Imagine that you've spent 3 (and in my case 1/4) years working with the single minded goal of finishing a PhD. Of course you have other goals throughout that time, and even mini projects etc within the PhD, but the overarching aim is to finish the thesis. Then imagine the end being like any big project... no matter how hard you've worked in the run up to the finish, the end is always crazy. In that crazy end you sleep far less than normal and see 4am at least a few times in the last fortnight in combination to getting up as usual. And for added benefit, pack up your room to move out of where you are living in preparation to move to London after the Christmas holidays. That sums up my last month (more or less). Oh, and I forgot, being a senior resident in charge of 36 freshers all the time, with 400+ in general, and with responsibility for one of the busiest student bars out of any of the Bristol University halls of residence.

If you can imagine all of that, congratulations. Suffice to say, I was a bit of a mess by the end. However, I managed to do it all (supplied by copious quantities of Coca-Cola). My self imposed deadline for handing in was Friday 13th December (you know, for good luck and all), but I had finished everything to the level I was happy with on the 12th, which was the day I moved most of my stuff out of my flat. With that all done, I thought why wait (even though 13 is my lucky number despite not being superstitious) and did hand in on the the same day. It was almost a disaster though as typically the Exams Office wasn't open like most buildings, and wouldn't reopen until after I had left England and returned home for Christmas (and I believe a well earned break). Thankfully a lovely receptionist in the building took my bound pre-viva copies of my thesis, and let me sign away all credit (a few days later I got the confirmation so that was a relief).

I was in an exhausted delirium, but rather than happy I was just emotionally and physically drained. There was no big celebration, there was no fireworks or confetti/balloons falling down on me or banners saying well done (not that I was expecting any of that). I don't know what I was expecting, but it just felt like such an anticlimax after all that work.

So what do you do when you've done everything you've worked towards for a bit over 3 years? I was the 2nd person in my cohort to finish, so not only was I done, there was no-one really to celebrate with as they were all toiling away and a little peeved I was in work with no work to do. No work to do! Imagine that! But the result was I was finished, room packed up, office emptied, and it was midday. Thankfully I managed to go get some food with a friend, might have been BBQ pork and/or a milkshake (the usual palaeo treats). I think I went to the pub after for a beer, but to be honest you could tell me now I did this that and the other, and I wouldn't be able to tell you if I did (not through alcohol related reasons, that much I am certain). I didn't have long to linger as I was on a plane two days later and I left all my PhD thoughts in England to recharge the batteries on a beach in the Caribbean. A bit of sunshine and the break obviously did me good, as two people on my return (independently) said I looked healthy. Worrying how bad I must have looked before I left...

Hopefully I am the exception rather than the rule for people handing in their PhDs, and people found the hand in a moment of elation rather than anticlimax. To be fair, I found my viva anticlimactic too, but that's for another time. I'd love to hear how everyone else found it in the comments. Please do let me (and everyone know)!

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