Academic Anomoly

An anomoly can be described as something unique that goes against the grain, diverges from the established norm, breaks rules and trends. The pattern in academic life goes as thus: gain a degree; then a master’s; embark on a doctoral; followed by a post-doctoral and hopefully gain a tenure in your field in university. Sigh! I guess this normally takes approximately 10 years or less.

I have come across plenty of people who have been successful at this and are still in their early thirties. Well, I am an academic anomoly. Why? Well, I fell into academia later in life than the norm. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do so I partied instead.  My aim was to get a degree. This was achieved in 2006. But here I am in 2011 and I am doing my PhD.

I look on jealously at those postgraduate students in the Reading Room who can devote hours and days on end to their research. They are at liberty to pour over books until the small hours of the morning. Yet, I struggle to keep my eyes open past ten o’clock in the evening. After dinner, playing, pyjamas and mental mind games to convince a 3 year old it is time for bed, my brain is jelly and the last thing I can decipher is the uses of the subjunctive forms in Old Irish.  These students don’t know how lucky they are.

Then there are those who are fortunate enough to have gained funding and scholarships to aid them in their research. Far be it that they have to worry about where the money is going to come from to pay the fees. Oh sure, the part-time job helps to pay for drinks, food and rent. But here I am cowering in worry as to how I am going to come up with the funds to pay for another 2 years on the research register and at the same time pay for 2 adults and 2 children to survive in the capital city. Is it a selfish act and should I join the real world? I guess most would say yes. I should put children first.

On a totally superficial level, I arrive into university everyday and enter a fashion parade. All these young hipsters have so much time (and grant money) to dedicate to their wardrobes and appearances. Everyone trying to out do the other in an effort to appear unique, when really what happens is that they all look alike. I get up in the morning and blindly gather some clothes and throw them on before dressing the kids. As for putting on make-up and doing my hair, forget it. A pony-tail is suffice. So I arrive in a fluster after cycling in and I realise my bra is on inside out or my top is on backwards!

At the end of the week between work, teaching and family commitments I have probably done about three hours productive research. Sometimes I feel like I am spitting in the ocean when I think about the vast amount of work I have to do still. Frequently, I lack confidence in my capability of completing this doctorate. Then there is a glimmer of hope and I see myself in the cape, graduating and sighing in relief. This is what I hold on to and I know deep down that I will achieve what I have set out to do, even in the face of all these adversities.


Filed under research

4 responses to “Academic Anomoly

  1. Maybe you suffer from an acute case of ‘Subjunctivitus’? Or ‘Antigrantosis’? Or worse, both! But seriously, you are so right in your observations. Just hold on to what you’ve got and keep plugging away. As you have said, they don’t know how lucky they are and probably won’t get as much out of their studies as you will. In the end, you’ll be laughing… all the way to the loony bin!

  2. dancingbeastie

    Thanks for visiting Dancing Beastie, which is how I found your own blog. For what it’s worth, I am in awe of your trying to combine motherhood with doctoral research. I was one of those lucky ones who did a doctorate straight after my first degree – with a scholarship – so could concentrate entirely selfishly on my studies. And even then it was a constant slog, a constant case of looking over my shoulder at friends who were already in the ‘real’ world, wondering if I should be out there getting a proper job, wondering when my university would ‘find me out’ and tell me I was too stupid to be there…Slowly I discovered that almost everyone felt like that. We were all just muddling along, it’s just that some people are better at disguising the fact.
    I think your subject sounds fascinating, and worth sticking at. When I completed my doctorate and then, after all that struggle, chose to leave academia, I felt terribly guilty as my parents had helped me out a lot financially. But my dear, wise late dad said that nothing was wasted. Everything that I had gained from pursuing my passion for learning would inform and illuminate my later life, including parenting my children. I am sure he was right. Good on you – have faith! :)

  3. I loved what you sound about the fashion show at school and ending up there with your shirt on backwards or bra inside out. I’ve been there. I think it’s amazing and fantastic that you are just plugging away at your degree. YOU WILL get there. Just one stinky day at a time. But you will get there.

  4. Hang in there! Sounds like you’ve already done amazing things, even withe your bra on inside out. ;-)

    Thanks for visiting The Domestic Fringe! Come visit again soon.

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