Dragons are one of my favourite character categories in fantasy fiction. My teenage reading world changed when I discovered Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight. Since then I’ve lapped up dragons as friendly, not friendly, totally Other and strangely familiar.
Dragons are frequently written as enigmatic characters. No matter how anthropomorphised, they always seem to retain some liminality as characters even when the story appears otherwise one-dimensional. I’m not sure what it is about the concept of dragons or how this happens but I like it. From Fafnir to Smaug, Falkor, Mnenmenth, Saphira, Orma, and Toothless, there is something about encounters with dragons that creates transformation in the story and for the characters who interact with the dragon. While frequently dangerous, dragons are often portrayed as having a wisdom otherwise inaccessible to humans that they may agree or concede to share. Or not.
Earlier this month was my first anniversary of starting this PhD. I realised this rather by accident rather than design. To be honest, there are still times when I feel ambivalent about it as worthy of celebration. It feels like a marker merely of tenacity, and while I know that is important it doesn’t feel like the biggest deal in terms of Progress. All it says is I’m still here rather than saying anything about what I may have done with that time. It says something, but I am left with a sense that it is also vaguely unsatisfying.
Satisfying are the transformations, the things that I have done with that time. When I think about these I feel like I have more to celebrate. That includes thinky work as well as tasky work, and that shift in mindset is another thing I have achieved. I have done a successful ‘in house’ presentation of early work from my scoping literature review, bombed at something and survived, also survived one of THOSE supervision meetings (which resulted in a way better design with which I’m really happy), have a paper for publication in final stages of draft and I’ve started my field work. I’ve worked through a lot of unhelpful scripts about what work is, especially about ‘being busy’. I am still working on my inner scold when it comes to reading or putting ‘the busy’ on pause to think. Looking at the way I work now compared with the degree of angst a year ago, there’s progress there too.
Considering how much transformation is in that list, I think the dragon may have already arrived. The transition from Year One to Year Two included starting my field work, and that has been a Big Thing in confronting new aspects of the research process and my place within it. This year my design and plan will transform into more ‘doing’ as I generate data and get into analysing it. This is at once exciting and scary. I have already had several episodes of fearing I will get nothing ‘useable’ from participants and panic about timeframes for completing all my planned iterations of field work. In my saner moments I’m sure it will work out … Thank goodness for Sensible Supervisors who remind me about this too.
I feel like I am a researcher now. Maybe this PhD is my dragon.
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