I started this blog what seems a long time ago. I was just starting my PhD journey – except University of Sussex called a PhD a DPhil back then. It was a journey that was not really part of my life plan; I thought doctoral research was for much cleverer people than me and also I couldn’t imagine anything being interesting enough to devote 3 years of my life to studying. During the journey I’ve learned that postgraduate research is not so much about being clever, but about wanting to learn and about having the dogged determinism to keep going through the ups and downs and frustrations of completing a pretty big project. I also learned that although postgraduate research involves developing expert knowledge in a specific area, it is also about broadening knowledge in many areas and beginning to see interconnectivity between ideas from many different sources.
This week marked the formal end of my PhD journey with a graduation ceremony in Brighton Dome, formal photos of me in my new academic dress and a hug from the Chancellor of the University of Sussex and a handshake from the Vice-Chancellor. But there is little point in spending years journeying towards a goal, if there is nowhere to go next – no new goals. I have sometimes claimed my PhD journey is a form of retirement preparation. In a way it is – I do have a bus pass and draw a pension – but being retired does not mean curling up in a comfortable chair with my knitting, but looking ahead for new challenges and opportunities.
In the immediate future, that includes some writing – there is little point in gaining expertise if it isn’t shared in some way – and some teaching – I have continued my work as an Open University tutor and am about to start teaching on a new module. It also means having more time to pursue personal interests and to do fun things with friends and family – the ‘me time’ spent as a student can now be enjoyed in different ways.
However, there is another challenge for me as an older person. The usual postdoctoral options for early career researchers do not apply – I am not looking for a job or a career. I am looking for opportunities to use my experience, not only of the PhD journey, but of all the things I brought to that journey based on years of previous experience in social work, the voluntary sector, management and parenting a child with what are euphemistically referred to as ‘special needs’. As I come to the end of this particular journey, I am looking at the road ahead and wondering where the journey through retirement will lead and what new opportunities and challenges may present themselves in the coming months and years.
Thank you to all who have accompanied me on this particular journey, especially friends and colleagues met through #phdchat and at the University of Sussex many of whom I hope to continue to work with and share ideas with in the future. Here’s to the future!