My supervision meeting last week was hard work. I came out feeling a bit battered as well as frustrated. I’d put a lot of work into thinking about my sample design and drafting it to appear thoughtful and planned. At least I gained the insight that what I had presented as a sample design in draft was confused. How? I had that confusion reflected back to me in the discussion. I have figured out that if I am not clear in what I write, then the responses I get will not be clear too. While this seems pretty straightforward at first glance, there’s a world of learning hidden inside. This little insight means that I can avoid an existential crisis in the event of a difficult supervision meeting or weird questions from other readers.
I did feel wiped, and it was nice to have a couple of check-ins from supervisors and others afterwards. Something that I noticed was that I had figured out what was going on during the meeting. Even though I hadn’t figured out how to divert the discussion that was in progress, I recognised what was happening and how it had come about. This meant that I did bounce back reasonably quickly and was able to turn the whole thing to my advantage and make myself some notes about what I needed to do next. The trope that the PhD is an exercise in personal as well as academic growth became embodied in my Friday afternoon.
What I want to do will be complex and demanding, and I think that I would struggle to maintain my interest over three years if it wasn’t. I think I can also make it achieavable as a PhD project, which is one of the things my supervisiors have responsibility to consider. After all, the university is interested in me completing. I am also interested in me completing. At the same time I am interested in doing something interesting and not just ‘enough’. I have grown enough since my last effort to realise that this will mean some episodes of frustration and tough supervision meetings where I get my confusion handed back to me in spades and it then becomes my job to go and sort it through. I know I have made half-grumbles in the past about the ‘young Mr Grace’ supervision sessions, wanting something more substantial. While this was not exactly what I had in mind, it has served a purpose without crushing me in the process. It has also meant I’ve gone looking for more methodology stuff that will help me hone my design more effectively in the way that I want it to go.
A popular PhD trope is the comparison with endurance running – being more like a marathon than a sprint. As it happens I took up distance running about a year before I started my PhD. I know I have training sessions that are just hard slog and others that I sail through and often there’s no specific reason why. One of my favourite training podcasts has a chirpy English woman providing the coaching voice-overs. Towards the end of one, she says that some days will be harder than others but a bad run is always better than no run. Some drafts and some supervision sessions will be harder than others. It is all good practice, even the days and weeks when you’re doing hard yards.
More XP. I’m pretty sure there’s an achievement in there as well.