Transition periods can be tough, something familiar has ended and now you’re faced with the unknown. Initially that seems very scary but it also can pose a lot of new opportunities and exciting challenges that will allow you to grow. At least that’s what I’m telling myself in my best ‘Dr Phil self-help’ inner voice while I’m sitting in my bed all day watching Netflix. Who am I kidding, I can’t afford to pay for Netflix.
After nine years of college life I finally completed my studies (for now…) and was handed the coveted three letters, PhD, at the beginning of this year. Some part-time teaching and research work kept me busy for a few months after that but soon enough I was swallowed up by a big void and found myself in post-PhD purgatory.
The three stages of post-PhD purgatory are: frustration, panic and despair!
Frustration over not getting any response to job applications. I’m so qualified and educated, am I not?!
Panic – how am I going to pay the bills, will I financially rely on my parents forever and, as my grandparents reminded me recently, what about your pension, Anne?
Despair – nine years for nothing, I’m not even a proper doctor, my degree is good for nothing and all this studying has probably set my career back.
It was time to address the situation head on like a responsible adult by not getting dressed all day, taking every meal in my bed and watching youtube videos non-stop. But even that loses its appeal after a while. So I had to remind myself of what my skills are and what I’m good at, which is mainly posting pictures of half-naked men on the internet. Therefore writing a blog seemed like an excellent idea, I think the internet doesn’t have enough of them yet.
Working on a project just for myself, like the blog, allows me to do something I enjoy – try a google image search of ‘Colin Farrell topless’ and you’ll see what I mean. In the meantime I’m also regaining some focus and learning new skills along the way. For example, I can html code now. Well, I can copy and paste html code into a blog post and make a fabulous six pack appear. I wonder under what category that goes on my CV…
I feel that a project gives me a sense of purpose and helps me to motivate myself which means I don’t spend all my time worrying about how to sort out my life. It also makes it easier to structure my day by setting myself specific tasks to accomplish. Searching for abs online is a fulltime job that requires a lot of planning.
Of course that doesn’t make all the doubts and insecurities miraculously go away. It’s a scary situation just having finished a big stage in life and trying to move on to the next one. I imagine driving and talking back to the GPS, ‘What do you mean? Turn right here or the one after?’ Unfortunately there’s never a response and I’ll have to figure it out myself. While I sit in the unknown and wait for my own, inner GPS to re-route, I’m trying to stay positive and look at it as an opportunity to learn something new.
Staying positive is easier said than done, I know. I guess what helps is to remind myself of what I’ve already achieved which isn’t too shabby. When I was doing my BA, I would hardly ever participate in group discussions during seminars and almost died when I had to give a presentation in second year. Fast forward a few years and I’m doing public speaking all the time in my own lectures and conference presentations. Of course I’m still sweating buckets when I’m doing it but I’d like to think it’s adrenaline rather than fear.
The girl who would prefer to stay put on the bench in PE class than move her lazy ass around a running track, turned into the woman who completed a 10k charity run. That is me by the way, and resurrecting my inner Usain Bolt remains a constant struggle in my life, to be continued… What I’m trying to say is, that by reminding myself how I’ve overcome challenges and difficulties in the past, I can find the confidence to tackle the present hurdles in my life.
I also draw inspiration and motivation from the people around me and how they are coping with the inevitable challenges life will throw you. It can be a great boost to see people close to you succeeding and doing well with personal or professional endeavours. Equally it can be inspirational to experience how friends, family or colleagues deal with set-backs and struggles in their lives. The best thing I found is to share my worries and doubts with others and not be afraid of asking for help.
I’ve learned that transitions come at all different stages of life and somehow I’ve had to get comfortable with never quite having things figured out. At 18, after dropping out of school half-way through my leaving cert, I had to figure out what job I could do to earn a living. At 23 I was sick of that job – being a secretary wasn’t as glamorous as it initially sounded – and wondered what to do next with my life. Quitting my job and moving from Germany to Ireland was my solution. At 27, still in Ireland, I thought I’d give university a go and didn’t stop studying until I was 36. Now a fully-fledged Fräulein Doktor, it’s time for me again to figure out where my life is headed until the next transition.
‘But Anne, when will you be a proper adult and have it all finally figured out?’ I hear you asking. Never my dear, never. But that’s a good thing. I think change keeps you flexible and open to new ideas. It makes you take risks and forces you to face the scary unknown which in turn will make you a stronger and more confident person. You’ll have taken on challenges you previously thought would be impossible. If all would go according to a plan you set out back when you were 20, life would be pretty boring. Transitions also give you time to reflect on yourself and your achievements and help you to re-asses your values and priorities in life.
Now enough with the soppiness and on with the abs. If it all gets too much for you, I recommend a double dose of Magic Mike (superior film) and Magic Mike XXL (superior dancing) to be watched in sequence.