Post PhD: Too Much But Not Enough

I've been getting so many emails lately about "what's it like after you finish your PhD?" that I thought I'd write a little bit about it. It might become a bit of a series if I don't run out of steam, you never know.

To recap: after 3 years and 6 months (3 years FTE, my first year was PT), I submitted my thesis; three months after that, I had my viva, and a month after that (just over one month ago) I submitted the final revised copy. I have had final confirmation from the university that I have been granted the degree of PhD in museum studies, and have sent off the final forms to my (Canadian) funding body to inform them of my success.

So what's it like? Well, it's strange, and a mass of contradictions. On one hand, there's the relief that I don't have to be working on my thesis all day, every day. No guilt there - I'm done! But on the other hand, there isn't as much motivating me to take on new projects. I have a fantastic idea for a paper that I want to write, and all the materials, but I don't have the energy to sit down and make it happen. Not until the deadline is closer, anyway! The way I am perceived has changed, too: the pride and accomplishment I feel at having completed my PhD is shared by many of the people in my life - my family, friends, those who have also done it - but I recently interviewed for a job where, while I thought my having an advanced degree would be a bonus, I was met with nothing but resentment. One of the people on the committee had never finished his, and the other, in whose field a Master's is a terminal degree, refused to call me Dr in any correspondence. Perhaps they felt I was overqualified, and so I didn't get the job - so much for doing this for improved career prospects! Not to worry, I do have a critical mass of university teaching lined up for this year that will pay some of my bills (I will still be underemployed), and that makes me think that my education has been worthwhile; however, my academic colleagues are asking me about my post-doc plans! I wouldn't mind doing a post-doc, but it would have to be the right project, at the right place, and at the moment, I can't see too many prospects for that. But it's early days - one is eligible for post-docs up to 6 years after completing the PhD, so I have time.

I must say that my personal life has really improved. Of course I miss all my PhD peeps in the department - but there will come a time when they complete their degrees and move away, too, so getting too nostalgic is pointless. I am sure that we will collaborate and reunite in the future, anyway. Meanwhile, I am back at home, with my family, and my significant other, and my cat, and my friends and colleagues, and it feels wonderful.

But - and I am apprehensive about sharing this, because it shows what a crazy person I am - I do miss the hothouse atmosphere of the PhD, and find myself thinking of projects I'd love to do, if I had it to do over again. I think my family would have my head if I told them I was considering another degree, so let's keep that one between ourselves, shall we?


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