Secret Diary of a PhD Candidate: The Winter Blues

By January 22, 2013 No Comments

The scene: my home office, lit by sunlight reflecting off the snow. It’s a rare event for me to work from here rather than making my daily Starbucks visit, but the sounds of a neighbor’s vain attempts to shovel ice affirm my decision to stay home and stay warm, choosing central heating over the winter blues that threaten all students of this university town.

Why the winter blues? It began on Friday morning, when I got the dreaded email that I was being refused, for my un-charming third and final time, to be sent forth as a candidate for the national social sciences and humanities scholarship. My first question, of course, is why? Despite my father’s death almost a year ago today, I have been more prolific than ever, hammering out a solid prospectus, publishing my first article, attending two well-recognized conferences, taking on more than my TA-load and completing two research-assistantships offered to me on the basis of my work ethic and enthusiasm towards my primary and secondary fields. What more could I have done? The first two times that I got refused, I genuinely believed that my work wasn’t good enough. That being said, I really felt like this was my year because, on what I assume is a scale of merit, my work is better than ever. So either I was overly optimistic about my academic improvements, or it begs the question: is this whole system bleeping arbitrary?

Thankfully, my worries are less about the money that I’m losing (which is still a big deal, but I won’t be eating any more KD than I already do), but more so about the opportunities. I can’t imagine that a Canadian institution would hire someone who doesn’t have this scholarship, when there are enough people who do. Only weeks ago did I read the cv of a candidate who has spent years turning down provincial funding on account of all the national funding he’s received.  Does the university realize that by rejecting me on my final attempt, they could be inhibiting my entire future prospects? Or will I be able to look back on this post in five years and laugh, knowing that it had worked out all along? Luckily, my aversion against the sound of shovels over ice (he’s still at it!) encourages me to seek employment in the sunnier states of America, perhaps Florida or California. Will Canadian accolades matter there? I hope not.[1]

That’s the most “downer” material I ever hope to write in what is a rather optimistic blog, considering the usually pessimistic subject matter of the field. So how am I going to pick myself up? Spending more time in my pajamas watching movies! More specifically, I need to find a way to detach myself from institutional disappointments and re-focus on my love of Shakespeare, which in this weather, is most comfortably done in the comfort of my own home. Above that, I am going to get back to regular blogging. Although the funding body has plugged their ears, I haven’t lost my voice. So look out, Internet, I’m back! Visit my blog for my on-going reviews of the BBC’s Hollow Crown series, where I hope to find inspiration, like Prince Hal’s words:

By so much shall I falsify men’s hopes;
And like bright metal on a sullen ground,
My reformation, glittering o’er my fault,
Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes
Than that which hath no foil to set it off.
I’ll so offend, to make offence a skill;
Redeeming time when men think least I will.

[1] Please feel free to give feedback if you know the answer to this question!

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