Tag Archives: PhD

Stupid Is As Stupid Does …

stupidI adore learning.

I was never a gifted academic at school – good grades coming only after a hard slog – but the desire to learn was always there.

Perhaps it is a longing to discover more of the world than is immediately apparent, to get under its skin?

I’m questioning this as I’ve been encouraged to take a PhD, since completing my Masters. Even writing these words seems embarrassing. My second degree, the one that, pre-MS, was going to spring-board me into a promising career as The Teenager would then be out of child-care, ground to an abrupt halt as soon as the first symptoms appeared. After almost ten years of working in a low-paid, part-time job to be available for him, it was a bitter pill.

A Doctorate is an idle, long-held dream. It was something other people did, the clever ones. Not the ones who turned down a University place at 18 to move to Austria instead. If I’d done the former, I would now be a Russian-German translator, and who knows how my life would have turned out?

To get to the point that I could even think about the next step is nothing short of miraculous, and obviously I have the incredible MS treatments I’ve had to thank for keeping my MS progression at bay. But I would like to think it’s also due in some part to my sheer obstinacy. The days, weeks, months I spent with huge sheets of paper dotted around the house filled with random jottings and essay outlines. The fluttering waves of post-it notes on my desk. My tears when my brain refused to comply.

And yes, I tried to give up, many times. It all seemed impossible. Who was I trying to kid? But where does this obstinacy come from? Well, a very unlikely source.

Years ago, a partner of mine (who will remain anonymous although if he is reading this, he will know exactly who he is), told me over and over again how stupid I was. I had no degree back then, just years of experience working abroad and three languages under my belt. He had a degree and a post-grad qualification.

This became quite an issue, with every argument prefaced with, ‘well, as I have a degree, I feel more qualified to say …’. In frustration I challenged us both to MENSA tests. And what do you know, my score was higher. But in a way, the damage had been done. I believed I was stupid (it had been said often enough). And for years after, that voice followed me. Until MS came along and his voice was drowned out.

MS could have been the final nail in the coffin, and it would at least have been an excellent excuse.

But I have other ideas …

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To PhD or not PhD …

etc… that is The Question.

I have had an incredibly exciting day, visiting a Post-Graduate University event, feeling very, very old, collecting my bag, freebie pen and numerous leaflets before being ushered to various stalls.

Where I collected more pens, leaflets and a head full of ideas.

Weirdly, there were bowls of sweets and plates of biscuits at every stand, but I was polite and declined all offers, yet afterwards I wondered – was it a bizarre initiation ceremony? Had I somehow failed by refusing the tempting Jammie Dodger  or Gummi Bears at the Student Union stand?

After whizzing around the stalls (the peeps were beyond helpful and enthusiastic), I had a couple of hours break when I went home to rouse The Teenager from his pit, today being his day off school.

Long story short, I let him sleep (easier), put a wash on, sorted the recycling, had a coffee and headed out to the talk about Creative Writing PhD’s, before heading back to my Uni for a tutorial about the book ‘Omega’, which I read a couple of months back and therefore couldn’t recall a single interesting thing to say.

I waffled.

When I got home, hours after leaving the house, I offloaded the industrial quantity of bananas for The Teenager and told him off for giving the cat a dangerous dose of catnip – she’s currently racing through the house, climbing anything she can find and bouncing off the sofas, wide-eyed and lethal, much to The Teenager’s amusement.

Anyway, my journey to this point has been weird and wonderful – being sacked for having MS, contacting the inspiring author M J Hyland, who encouraged me to start blogging over three years ago, to you guys who nudged me in to publishing a book, to taking a Master’s, to now. And next? PhD?

Am I suited for academia? I don’t know the language, but I have a passion . Is that enough?

Or am I fated to spend my days measuring concrete in square metres and advising customers about the benefits of vinyl over block flooring?

Let me know what you think – and if you offer Gummi Bears as an incentive, I’m all ears …

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