Thursday, 17 December 2009

Seeing differently 1: making your own way

As Christmas and then the new year approaches (one of my students recently said that 2010 sounded scarily futuristic, and she may be right), this is the first of a few posts on seeing differently.

This one began as an email to a friend responding to his Facebook status update on feeling ‘behind’ in comparison to his colleagues.

I wanted to say something comforting in a comment his update but all I could think of was that I am now 2+ yrs post-thesis submission and don't think I will ever ‘catch up’ with some of my friends who have only just finished theirs, and already have a couple of articles, or book chapters and a variety of editing experience. But I realised that this sort of side glancing, side-swiping at ourselves – that others are making better, faster progress – is a normal part of academic life, and we have to find ways not to let it get us so far down that we only see 'failure' when we look at other people, rather than a track along which to progress.

The only way forward is to look forward in our own 'track' and not look sideways at other people's. So I’m adopting a new attitude: what's the next thing *I* can achieve? Finishing my marking is a thing off the 'to do' list (and counts in experience) but isn't a positive goal in my career progress track. So, now I’m aiming to finish an article I was nearly done with in the summer and then sending it to a journal. Voila, article 'under consideration' on my cv. Then on to writing my book proposal. I have written on so many job applications that I am ‘working on’ this, now it’s time to really do it. And not just work on it, but get it done and on its way to an academic press. And then I’m writing a conference paper which I can turn into an article. That will be new research, and I hope it will remind me how much I like my research topics and texts.

I know I can’t do all of this at once. And, yes, I do have to do my marking (about 130-140 essays) over the Christmas holidays. But since I managed to finish a big project this term, along with my heavy teaching commitments, I’m starting to think that I might be able to do it. But I won’t if I keep letting other people’s achievements hold me back. So from now on, in time for the New Year, I’m going to start seeing my work differently.


Supermum said...


Claire said...

Hello, I've been reading your blog for a while but haven't commented before. It's hard not to compare yourself sometimes though... I've been doing that recently with colleagues, particularly one who had the same supervisor as me but completed a few months earlier and is way ahead with publications.

After making myself pointlessly miserable for a while, I realised it's pretty good to have completed a PhD regardless and we all do things differently, whether it's because of our diverse life experiences, what we want to do next varies or just that our personalities are so different.

I don't know why it took me so long to realise all that, but it does feel quite satisfying now just focussing on my own achievements and path, or when I can manage it and don't slip back into self-doubt anyway. I'm also hoping it's going to be the way forward next year.