Reflections on my PhD

I’ve been helping an ex-BF of mine with his PhD research proposal. He seems to try and emulate my career and life path – he too has done Media Studies and now wants to get a PhD studentship, in Media Studies, for a University abroad (New Zealand, in his case). Mwah.

Anyway, since my own successful PhD research proposal is now over 5 years old (!) and I’ve had to re-engage with some aspects of it in order to advise my friend, I thought it a good opportunity to reflect on what I’ve actually learned/how I’ve changed since. I.e.

What has the PhD done to me? How has the PhD changed me?

My BF asked me a similar thing a couple of weeks ago – he wanted to know whether or not doing PhD research has actually changed my brain or the way I think. It’s a very good point in fact. So far, I’ve mainly assessed my PhD in terms of the damage it has caused (near-alcoholism due to excessive amounts of stress over a prolonged period of time; a heavy emotional and mental weight on my shoulders for over 4 years, etc. etc.).

I think that the more distance I get to it, the more I’ll be able to see its benefits and the ways in which it has changed my brain for the better, and how it’s even equipped me with a lot of skills that are transferable to the workplace and RL.

My brain:

My brain has become some kind of superhuman, ultra-sophisticated machine. I don’t want to sound big-headed so please bear with me πŸ˜› . Think of it in terms of a tool of trade or skill. For instance, someone who does a 3 or 4-year apprenticeship in a manual skill, e.g. plumbing or whatever, will attain a great deal of specialist skills in the area and be ‘superhuman’ (i.e. better than anyone who hasn’t undergone this training) in this area. PhD research is very similar, only that the specialist training is intellectual, and not manual. So, in the same way that I couldn’t put a bathroom into my house or change the plumbing in the toilet, someone who hasn’t done a PhD won’t be able to use their brain in the way that I am able to.

It’s not just research and writing – I actually think that the way my brain works has probably changed. Sometimes, when I have a regular conversation with people, I can’t relate to their way of talking or discussing. I get the impression it’s very simple and basic, and that their way of thinking is underdeveloped. Only it isn’t, of course – it’s ‘normal’. They merely haven’t had 4 years of highly sophisticated, advanced, training of the brain which I’ve had. The best way to compare it is maybe not manual labour, but sports. A runner who trains for 4 years solid will be faster than someone who isn’t into sports. The runner’s muscles will be more developed, and s/he’ll know their body really well and also s/he’ll enjoy using his or her muscles and keeping in shape.

Is the brain a muscle?

Either way, reading my proposal from 5 years ago, I can clearly see how my writing and way of thinking has developed and changed for the better. I’ll detail it some more in future posts. I really would like to achieve a more balanced view and assessment of doing a PhD now that I’m reaching closure. The more distance I get, the more positive the whole thing is beginning to look.

It seems like the benefits are only starting to emerge now that the black cloud hanging over my head constantly has disappeared πŸ™‚

πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

2 thoughts on “Reflections on my PhD

  1. I can reassure from own experience you that this super-muscle is going to become weak if you don’t keep practising it – but you do have the MA to come, so that’s an opportunity. Or, return to writing, writing that involves research.

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