EDITING ALLIE HERE: So, I wrote this a few weeks ago, but I still wanted to post it because I kind of talk about uni stuff, mental health and all that jazz. ALSO, I know I’ve been super inactive on twitter and instagram as well as here – I had a major presentation for my thesis which i freaking passed and I’ve been giant ball of stress which typically results in me hiding from the world. I love you all and thank you for your patience! Xx
Last week I was on FIRE. Obviously not literally, but I read 5 books in one week and I was so freaking happy!
Even though it was a form of procrastination and I really should have been working.
Alas, this week I had to do actual work and prioritise thesis writing and not reading so I haven’t actually read a book AT ALL this week.
Shocking, I know.
I did start a book, though, and I’m looking forward to binge-reading it this weekend (although, it is Saturday when I’m writing this and I’m at the library TO DO WORK and I’m not reading – ugh, being an adult freaking sucks dude). The book I began to read this week is Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst. I burrowed this book because I have only seen fabulous reviews for it on BookTube as well as on Goodreads and I felt as though all of a sudden, people were talking about it more? I think this is because the sequel is coming out this year so more people are hyping it up. I was intrigued when I first saw people’s reactions to it. From the way it was described to me, it was a female/female hate-to -love romance (and you KNOW HOW MUCH I LOVE THOSE) set in a sort-of fantasy world where magic exists but is outlawed in the country in which one of the main character’s is to go and be married to its Prince. Things obviously happen, which I don’t know what those ‘things’ are, and the main character, Princess Dennaleia of Havemont falls in love with Princess Aramanthine of Mynaria, the sister to Dennaleia’s betrothed.
INTRIGUED, INTERESTED, EXCITED.
Now, I just want to freaking be able to read it.
In other news, I officially submitted Three Chapters of my thesis to be assessed for an upcoming Milestone – which is basically when you present your research to a panel of three academics who are to assess whether your research is ‘doable’ as well as to make sure you are not falling behind, etc. Now I’m just patiently waiting for my Ethics to be approved (FINGERS CROSSED) and I’ll be a happy little researcher!
I’m going to go on a bit of a tangent, but the past 6 months have been such an interesting journey in terms of my research and thesis writing. I had misgivings going into my research degree (I WON’T KNOW IF IM AN OFFICIAL PHD STUDENT UNTIL NEXT FEBRUARY where I have to do another presentation to ‘confirm’ my position as a PhD candidate) – mainly because my Honours degree was such a mess.
Now, my plan had always been to become an academic of some sort – to go into research and teaching at the university level. I knew this since my first year of university when one of my tutors was like ‘YOU DOING YOUR HONOURS IN TWO YEARS RIGHT???’ – and made me attend information sessions for it. It was always what I wanted to do.
But my actual Honours year? SUCKED GIGANTIC BALLS, MY FRIENDS.
My mental health was a chaotic mess. I hated everything. Going into university for meetings and classes was the bane of my existence. I was just kind of miserable. I was lucky enough to have two really wonderful people at that time of my life who are the reason why I was able to pull through (I’M TALKING ABOUT YOU BOTH LISA AND HANNAH). I just couldn’t bring myself to do any of the work or put in any sort of motivation to do literally anything concerning my thesis.
So, here in Australia (I think it’s National?), our Honours degree is an extra year following your Undergraduate degree. It might be same everywhere, but I literally don’t know haha. I had to write an 18,000-20,000 word thesis and I did mine specifically about Medieval Europe and we had from March to November to write it. So, not a full year but thereabouts.
By the end of it, I was just like – NOPE, CAN’T DO IT. And as a result of my existential crisis, I went into teaching.
When I was considering going back into a research degree, I was worried that it would spiral me into another low period. To the point that I stayed AWAY from my previous university where I did my Honours just in case it triggered something!
Which is hilarious in hindsight, because I’m literally there like every fortnight with my sister-from-another-mister Hannah, doing work and chilling. But it’s different because I’m not actually there, if that makes sense.
So I went to another University that was closer to where I live in terms of distance and convenience to get to (MY UNIVERSITY WHERE I DID MY HONOURS WAS TWO AND A HALF HOURS AWAY BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT – i literally had to take a bus to the train station, get on one train to get to the city, get on another train to get to my university station, then get on a bus to get to my university from the train station! It was a nightmare!), and i can’t complain about it! I think it was the best decision for me, personally, to attend this university – I’m super lucky to have incredibly supervisors with great friends.
But, mental health. Doing research for a prolonged about time – it is legitimately such a concentrated effort- can be draining. People don’t really understand that although I’m not technically in an official ‘office job’, even if I don’t do the full 9 to 5, for the 5 to 6 hours I am in the office doing my work, it is concentrated writing and active researching. I’m not just chilling.
And because of that, I think it can be easier for us grad students to burn ourselves out. Because we don’t actually stop. We have to stop ourselves.
(Obviously I do understand how honoured and privileged I am do be able to do my *hopefully* PhD on scholarship, and I do love it – please don’t think I’m being ungrateful!)
What I mean by that is, I don’t get the usual ‘uni holidays’, as research students we don’t go by the same semester timetable – because we have no classes, we literally have no timetable so no cut off time that we can say, oh hey, I can take this week off because it’s a mid-semester break – technically, and I do mean technically, if we want to take time off from our thesis or from our work, we have to officially ask for leave.
And that obviously means that you don’t get paid from your scholarship – so we tend to just work through non-stop.
A few months ago, I started feeling it. You know, when your body plays catch up with your mind? As if to say, bitch you are tired as fuck we are going to make it super freaking hard for you to get our of bed in the mornings because we need a break.
I think the importance of knowing when to take the time for self-care, or to just take time to breathe and chill without the stress and anxiety of school or university work, is so incredibly important. I know throughout my Bachelor degree till now, there really hasn’t been an emphasis on the mental health of students. Honestly, my supervisor makes it a point every meeting to ask ‘Alex, how are you’ and it shocks me every time, like how am i supposed to answer that? ‘Yes, I’m good just trying not to have a panic attack and breathing oh, and i forgot to fill in my prescription so I haven’t had my anti-anxiety meds this morning and I’m trying not to freak out’….But i do try and be honest.
But the fact that I feel so strange and weird when my supervisor asks that question demonstrates that universities have an inherent problem in not addressing the mental health and wellbeing of their students. Teachers, lecturers, professors, tutors…if you notice something or even if you don’t, let your students know that there is a network for support should they need it. Tell them that it’s okay to put aside the work for a few hours and relax with family or with a book or with Netflix. Self-care is important, but students are implicitly told that it’s not a priority.
Okay, what the fuck, that was a rant. I hope I don’t come across as ungrateful and not recognising the privilege i have, but i thought since we are so open with each other, I’ll let you know how I’ve been feeling.
I’m always here if you need someone to talk to, so please don’t hesitate if you want an ear. Now, if you’ve read all that and are still here, I’m genuinely asking you: how are you today?
Love you all lots,
EDIT: hey, it’s future Allie here post-presentation. I am feeling so much better than how I was and I honestly think it’s because 1) i finished my presentation and 2) I’ve done nothing but read and watch Bones and Criminal Minds for the past five days. SELF CARE IS IMPORTANT!