A friend on my mailing list has emailed me to say ‘Congratulations. You have finally snatched the pebble from your master’s hand, grasshopper.’ I’ve not quite snatched it yet, there’s the viva to do yet (a one hour spoken-exam with a committee of people who know about my field of study), but it’s so close I can almost feel the leather patches attaching themselves to the elbows of my jackets.
He also sent me a link to a comic about PhDs and I felt a definite pang of recognition to this one. I don’t know what it’s like in the US, but in the UK getting a PhD actually lowers your lifetime earning potential because no-one wants to employ someone who is (on paper at least) smarter than them. It makes you question why you do it really, but then you just remember that it’s the intellectual equivalent of rock-climbing and you fall into the mantra of ‘because it’s there’ until it all goes away.
And so, the real looming question is ‘what next?’ and that’s something I just don’t know the answer to. I’ve recently experimented with a ‘normal’ job, and I was utterly miserable, which leaves the comparative poverty of self-employment, my current mish-mash of temp work and freelance web-design, or trying a radical change of occupations. To say the very least, this is a stressful time, and taking a viva seems like the least of it.
One of the things about writing a thesis is that you become the world specialist in your subject, so talking to people about it is pretty easy. You just have to remember that while they are very intelligent people, so their questions should not be dismissed, in this field you know more. From that basis you can answer anything. Well… That’s the theory.
Going back into a working environment has shown me an unexpected side effect of my studies. I now see the world in an unexpected light, somehow tangential to the way that other people seem to see it, and with this comes a strange sense of loneliness. Would I do it all again? Yes. Would I recommend it to other people? That’s definitely a more difficult question.