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PhD to completion – The final 6 months

TL;DR: I quit my associate lecturer job so I can finish my PhD full time before December. I am still available for freelance and project based work. This is a post about my boundaries. 

This has been quite a difficult post to write.

In fact, this is the third time I’ve attempted to start it after deleting the last two versions. The first version was a recap of blog posts over the last 7 years (emphasising how important my blog has been in terms of helping me work out decisions such as these) – the second version was series of *finger up* emojis to world for making these decisions so hard – but apparently I was sighing so loudly during that one that you could hear me through the living room wall. So rightfully I deleted it.

So, I’ve made the decision to not go into as much detail as I had planned – which is difficult, especially for me, as I’d tell anybody my life story if they’d ask me.

After spending the last few days going through the thoughts and emotions – then the remainder of the afternoon working out what tone I’d like to take here, I’ve decided to (thankfully, hopefully) settle on a positive, productive one.

So…

Last week I made the decision to not renew my 3 day a week associate lecturer contract at UWS that was due to update on the 31st of July. I am finally a full time PhD student – and I’m going to focus on being a full time PhD student, not a full time PhD student hussling for precarious academic work that doesn’t quite fill the gaps for both the employer nor the employee.

But, and this is an important but…

I am not stopping my freelance work. The freelance projects I’ve been working on since December has been sustaining me (creatively amongst other things) more than anything recently. I currently have several gigs lined up to take me until December 2016. Also, I am available for projects, guest lectures and workshops in education institutions & universities (digital/social media research) training (community, third sector) (social reporting, film making on a shoestring, social media), digital media related projects (wordpress, instructional videos, copywriting, social media support) and in particular, facilitating, mentoring and supervising (i.e. I’m working with Hyperland again this year supervising 10 MA students) and doing lots of cool stuff with Ayrshire Youth Arts Network.

I am particularly keen to keep this sort of work going as it is incredibly rewarding, inspiring, it gives me good energy and how I envision the future of education and collaboration as we all move forward. In particular, I’m working on a side project called mediaforcommunities.org that I’ll be tinkering with whilst I finish up the PhD.

If you are interested in working with me, I will be definitely checking this email > hello@jennifermjones.net

So, now that is clear, where were we…


The 1st of July is a significant date – as my end date for my PhD write up period is the 31st December – so exactly 6 months.

Symbolic – perhaps, as I don’t imagine there are many people around on new years eve to stamp the received document. However, it was be utter magic to hand in the full thesis within the year of 2016. School of 2016, here we go.

When I started my PhD, I was convinced I would have it by the time I was 26 (2011-12).

Life got in the way – but, tbf – the actual PhD I’m working on now really didn’t get started properly until April 2014.  This is why blog posts like this are so hard to write. I want to vent my frustration about how I’ve been hanging about waiting to get to this stage – but what’s the point, I’ve got myself here. Finally. I can stop worrying. It’s not a story of perseverance anymore, a piece of god damn research now. There are sticky notes, white boards, chalk boards, drafts, bits of paper everywhere. I just need the full time, all the time to writing up this ethnography – slowly and with detail.

And here is the plan:

First of all, seeing as I am seeing double, I intend to take the rest of this week off to rest. I was surprised to find out it was Wednesday when I woke up this morning. I actually didn’t realise how exhausted I was. I’ve slept solidly since Sunday since I made the decision to completely stop working.

I’ve just re-registered for SCONAL library card that allows me to work in any university library in the UK. I’ve made a decision not to work from UWS anymore – mainly, mostly, so I don’t cross the streams. I want to be a PhD student. I don’t want to have to make small talk about work politics. I’ve worked as a member of staff there on and off since 2010 – I need a break, and I need to treat the time I am writing and researching as purely PhD time.

This worked particularly well when I was completing my MA dissertation at Leicester University in 2008. I went to the same place, everyday, worked 9-5, put books away, gym and rested. I think I have got so used to juggling the work, phd, work, phd, that my bandwidth is just gubbed.

I’m switching off my academic email during the week. I will have a out of office that points to another email. I’ve not vanished off the grid – I just need to not have my email going off every 5 minutes. I’ve got so much better at not salivating at notifications and switching off at the weekend – but I need to step it up a notch and just ignore email completely.

I don’t need people to tell me not to use the internet or social media. If you haven’t bloody noticed, social media is my life line and my access point to sanity & exciting opportunities. If you tell me not to use social media, you have to put a pound in my paypal.me.


 

And that’s it really, just wanted to lay down the set up for me for the next 6 months. This blog has been with me since when I announced the PhD scholarship, when I announced I needed to stop and this is my final step in getting this PhD finished and finally moving into a position where I’ll be working on projects that I am super excited to be working on – and protecting my bubble for dear life.

Now to end on an inspiring picture.

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