I walked away
tl;dr: about two years ago I’ve quit my PhD Studies after about 3.5 years of study, I’ve moved back to lovely Austria, and by now I’m well again.
It’s been a while since I’ve written to you on here, so I thought I’d shoot you an update on what I’ve been up to.
I’ve quit my PhD
And by now I’m well again and fully recovered. I just couldn’t write any more. I had become so critical of everything I’d write that even before I could complete any sentence I had already thought of five reasons why what I’d just typed in was utter shite. So I spent long days in front of blank paper, and in front of the 40k Words of the Thesis I’d already written, going over it again and again trying to make it better. it was no use. Every thought, every minute, every hour, every day, was overshadowed by thought of “you should be writing”, and I really couldn’t enjoy ANYthing anymore.
The last two years of my doctoral studies became an endurance effort. Having increasingly alienated (through my criticality) all but my very best friends (and even straining those relationships), I had succeeded in cutting myself off the resource I need most in this life: social interaction with lovely folks!
This was directly conflicting with my life goals, even though I didn’t realise this at the time. I don’t know whether I have already told you this, but I try to follow my vision in everything I do – and my vision is that everyone who knows me should be better off than anyone who does not.
So, after moving back to Austria and trying to continue my studies from here after a brief Hiatus, I decided that it would be best if I quit. I can still remember the feeling of relief after having made that decision, having fought it for so long. Looking back it was one of the best decisions I have ever made – as was the decision to start a PhD in the first place! I have learned so much about myself, really getting to know myself how I perform under pressure, and learning where I needed to get better.
So what was I up to in Austria?
Initially I came here while on Hiatus from my PhD Studies. My parents had rushed their construction work at home so I could have a place to sleep, and I was helping on the farm, getting some grounding in real, dirty, manual labor. I also continued the with psychotherapy I’d started in England, this time in my mother tongue, which proved to be more effective. One could say I tried to work it out :D. After a few months I resumed my studies and moved to Lindach, a short way from home, and I still live here. I then started working part time for an IT consultancy in Gmunden, with the aim that am externally imposed daily routine would help get me back on track, but we quickly arrived at a point where my conflicting priorities conflicted and a decision was neccessary: either concentrate fully on the job, or on my PhD work. I chose, again, the PhD.
It didn’t take all too long for me to arrive at the point I’d described earlier, being and feeling like a complete hollow wreck, unable to produce anything anymore.
I picked myself up
I continued to help out at my brother’s farm, continued with therapy and after a few months, I talked with my old line manager from the company I worked at right after leaving school back in 2005. I told him that I would leave the PhD, and he happily said “That’s great! We’re hiring!”.
And so I went back to my old company a year ago, and I’m still there, although I now feel like I can take on the world again! Not least due to having met a special lady, who I’m undescribably happy with… but if you are a Facebook friend or instagram follower, you surely already noticed this 😉
I love you, Melanie
Congrats on leaving academia! I’ve had very similar problems, but have now left academia only way later in my career. So it’s certainly a plus doing the right thing earlier on. What’s your old/new job? Is it in IT? What are your tasks? (Asking for a friend.)
Thank you, much appreciated! my new job is indeed in IT, I manage the network infrastructure and services and all the rest at an SME in Austria, doing user support and project management, for instance, I recently deployed a software distribution system across the company and some of its austrian subsidiaries!
Cool, sounds quite exciting for a plan b. Still figuring out what I want to be doing… 😉