As I got older – and particularly during my PhD – I used to wonder why I hadn’t yet got a grip on things myself. I was an adult now, but I didn’t recognise myself as such, particularly if I remember back to the way I looked up to people as a child. In fact, it seemed like the opposite was the case: the PhD was doing it’s best to destroy me, there were questions over the future, a lingering anxiety with the world in general.
And then I began to gradually realise that no one really has a grip on things. More than that, no one really knows what they’re doing and they’re all just making it up as they go along.
Adulting isn’t a thing to be learnt and mastered, it’s a more clumsy process of bumbling from one decision to the next with only a vague sense of direction and an even vaguer idea of how to get there.
It’s hard to appreciate this, because to look at others around you you would struggle to think that they are as clueless as you are.
But we’re awfully good at hiding it – you are too, probably.
This has two important implications. First, it legitimises being confused, bewildered and overwhelmed with what it means to be a PhD student. Second, it gives you permission to fail, make mistakes and get things wrong from the to time.
So next time you wonder why you haven’t got a handle on things, remind yourself that no one really does and that there isn’t a right or wrong way of going through either your PhD or life more generally. Do what you think is right, do it with a good heart and trust that that will be good enough.
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