A Port in a Storm

It’s been a hell of a week over here in the world of Nick and I’m very glad to have had some writing to fall back on. I was going to make an update about Hallowe’en today, it being 31st October, but instead I’ve got a bit of a horror story of my own to share.

I’m doing a PhD at the moment in the Laws of War during Crusading to the East, 1140-1204. As far as I knew up until a few weeks ago it was going well. I spend a lot of time at work in order to be able to afford the living costs to attend the university and of course I have some extra-curricular activities that take up some time, but I’ve never considered that the negative impact of these on my studies was so great that I’d be in a difficult situation. There’s a lot of balls in the air, but I’m making myself into a proficient juggler.

Anyhow, it turns out my supervisor thought I was a part time PhD student (meaning I’d be attending university for 6 years rather than 3), and I am in fact a full time PhD student. This means that I’m worried that all the assessed work that was coming back with positive comments (to my delight) was actually substandard to where I should be. My supervisor was genuinely shocked when he realised I’m full time and in my final year, and suggested I switch to a part-time course. That’d be two more years of plugging away and juggling and not being able to do half the other things I’d like to do. Sure, I like my research and find it fascinating, but there’s also the bit of a chore when I can’t go to a party or go on a night out to socialise with friends because there’s work to do. Or when I really want to do some writing or just watch some TV but know I have work to do. I’m sure everyone feels like that from time to time. But it’s the expense more than anything. The tuition fees won’t be any more, but the living costs will be and that worries me. The constant struggle to make ends meet is not a fun one, or a rewarding one.

Now I’ve worded these feelings to the department in my half-yearly report, and some other issues like reports I’ve submitted not being returned for 5 months, my secondary supervisor ignoring e-mails and work I’ve sent him, the desk space being inadequately available and having a computer that doesn’t even work properly (I’ve now relinquished the desk space entirely, because it’s no use). I don’t know what the result will be and maybe I’ll be left facing two years more or three, or not being able to complete at all, which will be a bit of a blow, since the thing I’ve wanted since starting university is to get my doctorate.

In all this horror and turmoil there is one good thing. I’ve been writing more and having ideas more, and my story has become a refuge from the troubles of the world. Somewhere to disappear to and not think about what’s going to happen or where it’s all leading, because I’m thinking as my characters and defining their reactions and world. It’s refreshing. This is my other dream, my dream above all other dreams; to be a writer. I’m glad I have that to fall back on, and a new chapter to write after a hard day of banging my head against a mammoth brick wall.

So that’s the thrust of my post today – things may be difficult, things may not be going the way you want, but always find something you like doing for the joy of doing it and immerse yourself in it as a refuge from the winds and a port in the storm.

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