Big decisions

Where to start?

First of all, I’ve decided to put my hat in the ring and have a go at winning some funding for the PhD. I’ve spent quite some time on the phone to SFE (they’re really nice to you once you’re a postgraduate borrower of money, it transpires) who assure me that this is all above board and won’t leave me out of pocket if I win the funds. Yes, I’ll not receive any more student loan payments but, no, I won’t suddenly have to stump up thousands to pay them back instantaneously. This is a moot point anyway as the funding is damn hard to get – they even call it an “open competition,” which sounds a little Hunger-Games-esque to me. First to the cornucopia gets the funding?! The White Rose College of Arts and Humanities is a federation of the Universities of Sheffield, York and Leeds; the funding is open to PhD students in multiple schools / faculties across all three and only 40 people are awarded the funding. My guess is that the majority of it will go to 2020 first year students, not those of us who are beginning our second year, because it’s a good marketing tool.

In the first instance, I’ve had to apply to the Information School to get their go ahead to then apply to WRoCaH. Yup, that’s its acronym and it’s pronounced rocker. Whilst I’m very unlikely to win the funds, it is good practice at writing bid-like things and explaining what it is I’m trying to achieve.

Second of all, it is time to euthanise my laptop. I’m hoping it isn’t self-aware enough to read that last sentence and that our Alexa device hasn’t given it a heads up. It is slow and clunky; it basically takes longer than me to warm up in the mornings. Once you have more than two tabs open on t’internet, it grinds to a halt. And multiple applications gives it a stroke. In my head, it’s a relatively new and powerful laptop but, in actual fact, I bought it in 2012. That’s probably geriatric in laptop terms, right? I have to turn my simple needs (fast, number pad for data entry, not too heavy) into technical specifications. And I don’t even know the difference between memory and storage. Plus I’m on a poor-student-budget. Nevertheless, I am committed to spending my loan (after fees) on this endeavour at the end of the month and to ensuring I don’t choose whimsically because I like the colour. I’ll keep this laptop because the man-child will need something for university and it will do until he saves for better.

How I am greeted most mornings…

Finally – and I guess I buried the lead – I’ve resigned from my job. Big, difficult, unwanted decision. It turns out that studying for a PhD full time – and remotely – isn’t conducive to holding down a job, even part time. I knew that the PhD would require self-motivation and discipline but I truly thought that I was enough of a workaholic that I could do it all. I can’t. It’s a very hard pill to swallow.

Currently, I am not in a productive routine and I’m jumping from deadline to deadline. Also, I need the flexibility to engage with the brilliant doctoral programme and academic development opportunities. Not only that, the man-child has hit the needs-me-but-doesn’t-want-me stage of his development (Nanny McPhee reference) and is taking up an inordinate proportion of my time… I won’t go into details because it wouldn’t be fair to share his life. I will say it’s exhausting and I also don’t want to unintentionally let him down because I am spinning too many casserole dishes (bigger and more awkward than plates). Essentially, life, wife, teenager and PhD are all plates that I cannot and would not drop, meaning I had to turn my attention to the work plate. One influential factor is financial stability: I am fortunate and grateful that my wonderful wife has landed an impressive new job and has offered to solely shoulder the burden of the household income.

Sketch by Hurrah For Gin…

I am gutted to be leaving my job for so many reasons. I have an excellent boss, who is a perfect mentor and coach for me: supportive and challenging in equal measures. Plus, she lets me flex my initiative. Any Sunday night blues are banished because working with her is a dream. The whole College Group was supportive of my MA, dissertation and research. The campus is so unique with cracking students and staff. It’s going to be a wrench to leave and I am not enjoying the countdown to the end of February.

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