Confirmation

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I’m a runner and when you’ve been running for a while, no matter how slow or begrudgingly you go, you figure out what works for you. I can’t eat before I run. I need at least a good hour between eat and street otherwise I get that hot, kind of queasy sick feeling. Not quite verge-of-vomit but definitely uncomfortable.  Turns out thinking about my confirmation of candidature presentation has the same effect. Logically, it’s ridiculous. I do not have a problem with public speaking, I have had positive feedback from my supervisors on my most recent draft, I’ve still got 10 weeks to prepare. Nonetheless, there’s that itch of insecurity. I refer extensively to the work of one of my panellists and I have the (completely irrational) feeling he’s going to stand up halfway through and say something like, “No. No, you’ve got that all wrong, how could you possibly misunderstand that? You’ve insulted me and my life’s work. Get out.” Then I will leave and walk home, it will inevitably start to rain, and I will think about the years I’ve wasted as a bus drives past and predictably splashes mud all over me.

I was explaining all this to a friend over drinks the other day, musing that all this work could have been for nothing, that I may have wasted years of my life, that my clothes will get all muddy from the imaginary bus-puddle incident etc, etc. My friend wisely cut me off and summarised my rambling: “So what you’ve been doing for twelve months could be completely wrong?”. Oh god. It was said as a joke, this particular friend does not have a molecule of spite or malice in her entire being, she spent most of the conversation reassuring me with saintly patience. Yet that line has circled around my brain like a vulture eyeing off a particularly tasty zebra carcass.

It’s ridiculous that a throwaway comment has stayed with me, and that these irritating insecurities are lingering. The purpose of confirmations is not to make PhD students cry or break out in a rash, it’s to make sure we’re on the right track and to provide a bit of a sounding board. It’s an opportunity to get feedback from outside of your supervisory team, a different perspective that may pick up on something you’ve missed. The majority of students pass and continue with their candidature with no issues. My brain knows all of this, yet I still can’t think about it for too long with that hot, sick feeling rolling into my stomach like I’m up to kilometre 3.5 straight after lunch.

I tried a different approach to assuage some of my paranoia and asked some fellow PhD friends about their confirmation experiences. They were, if possible, less comforting. “It’s no big deal,” they said. “Don’t even worry about it.” It’s all well and good for them, they’re almost finished PhDs! They’re geniuses… Genii? I don’t even know the plural of genius! How am I supposed to get through my confirmation??

I think I’ve figured it out though. The problem is not that I have an over-active imagination or watch too much TV. It’s not that I have to make a 30-minute presentation of my work in front of some of the best minds in the field I’m trying to get into. It’s not even that my work might not be good enough. It’s my friends. I need new friends.

 

 

Squad goals.

Cringe. What has the world come to? This is not going to be an ode to Taylor and her gaggle of powerful friends. My goal is just to get my squad in the same place at the same time.

We all got together twice this year. It doesn’t seem like much but it’s an impressive achievement considering our geographic spread and assorted time commitments. When we do rarely get to see each other, I’m struck by how easy it is. There’s no hesitation, no testing the water, it’s as though we were briefly interrupted by a waiter bringing a coffee rather than six months. “Now where were we…” It’s lovely and comfortable and fun. It also gives a lot of perspective.

The initial conversations are frantic and excited. We talk over each other, screeching and cackling, we’re very much that annoying group of women everyone hates to sit near in restaurants. We settle down into old habits, we talk about work and relationships, and what we’re going to be when we grow up. Just like old times. We’ve all known each other since high school so it’s easy (and fun) to regress a little. Then something comes up that reminds us all we’re not 16 anymore. We talk about house prices and rent, the cost of living in different cities, politics, and travel. And suddenly we’re grown up. How did that happen?

We’re in the midst of organising our next weekend trip, the first of 2016. Also the first since two of us got engaged (not to each other, kind of unfortunately…), one of us bought a house and one of us quit her 9-5 job. We’ve got a lot to catch up on. We did the same thing early this year, a weekend away in Sydney, and I’m hoping it can be at the very least an annual thing. I love my girls, my squad as Taylor Swift might put it (or has she trademarked that word already?). Despite the fact that we pretty much live in each other’s pockets via Facebook, Snapchat, WhatsApp and any other myriad of technology, it’s not the same as being there in person.

My Mum and her friends, some of them she’s known since they were kids, catch up at least once a month. They go for drinks or dinner or gather at each other’s houses or go away for a weekend. They shriek and giggle and drink wine and talk about relationships and their kids and politics. They listen to music and dance badly and generally cause a ruckus. Mum and her harem are pretty inspirational to me in terms of female friendship.  Inspirational may be a little strong considering the way they dance after a few bottles of wine… (A surprising amount of fist-pumping and an upsetting amount of hip-swivelling). But they all make the effort to get together whenever they can and just enjoy each other’s company. I hope that in 100 years’ time (sorry, Mum, couldn’t resist), that my girls and I are the same.

One final note, I concede that I have failed miserably at my self-imposed blogging challenging. The benefit of hindsight reveals that perhaps this time of year isn’t the best time to start a daily blogging challenge. Christmas madness, prepping for a Euro trip and a looming confirmation of candidature seminar all take up a lot of time but unfortunately are not good blog fodder. I’ll be a little more realistic and aim for once or twice a week. Hopefully I’ll have plenty of time when we’re travelling. Eish, I can hear hindsight chuckling already!