Monday, August 14, 2017

Letting Go Of My PhD

Have you ever wondered why people talk about 'my degree', 'my M.A.', or 'my PhD.', when they haven't even got it yet, or even not 'yet'? It's like everyone has a Ph.D. by the mere fact of thinking about it, it's just a matter of whether you've actually done it or not.

I got my B.Ed. at the usual time after A'Levels and a gap year. I went back to do my M.A. in my 30s which was almost 20 years ago now. At that time I remember saying, "if I ever start talking about doing a Ph.D. please shoot me." It's a bit like childbirth. After a while you forget about the trauma and start to think about diving into academia again. And exactly like pregnancy and childbirth, it's not the doing of it that one yearns for, it's the having it at the end.

I was never a good student at school. I could have been but I didn't have the sitzfleisch to actually do all the studying required. At college I did ok, but only ok because I didn't get what they were looking for in an academic essay. When I did my M.A. the tutor explained it to me and after that I did really well. Why hadn't anyone ever explained it to me before? Why hadn't I thought to ask? What I learned from that experience was that anyone can do a Ph.D., you just have to find a subject that you're sufficiently passionate about to devote up to five years of your life to it.

I never found that passion although I did rather like the idea of being Dr Rachel Selby, or Rachel Selby Ph.D. So I coddled the dream in the back of my mind and bought a 'how to' book but essentially, I did nothing about it because having an M.A. was enough at my level of academic career. And then it wasn't. Suddenly the colleges only want to hire teachers with Ph.D.s and Head of Department is out of the question.

So I looked into starting a Ph.D. last year. My mother even offered to help pay for the tuition (it's much cheaper to do it in Israel than in the UK). However, the problem is not the cost of the tuition, it's the cost of the time you won't be able to work, the babysitters you'll need for late afternoon/evening courses, and the quality time you won't be spending with your child. Added to this, I'd be nearly 60 by the time I finished. I saw the amount of work involved and scared myself out of the whole idea.

It was too late for a Ph.D. for me. If I'm going to spend that amount of time on a project, it needs to be something lucrative. Why not just write that novel, not have to pay for the privilege of writing it and not have supervisors telling you what to write? And no costly books to buy or find online in order to read everyone else's research before you start - you make it all up. Ha! Why not indeed?

There are five more photos like this - 30 books in total!
Meanwhile my decluttering went up a notch yesterday as I tackled the books. More about that later but suffice to say, I let go all of most of those academic books about linguistics and education. I even let go the 'How to do a Ph.D.' book. I've read it after all so what do I need it for? LOL.

They are all up on the local facebook 'buy, sell, swap' group.

P.S. If I were to do my Ph.D. these books, which are all 20 years old, wouldn't be any use to me anyway so there was absolutely no point in keeping them. I leaned this lesson when I tried being an academic advisor to Benny Lewis for his book, Fluent in 3 Months. I got a mention in the acknowledgements nevertheless but it was all very embarrassing.


  1. You have really thought this out and based on your life, it really seems like the best choice for both you and DD.
    I started a BA many years ago at the usual time but life interfered and I left after 2 years. Eventually, when I worked at the University I got my courses for free and with working so much overtime I was able to negotiate things with my boss to take classes during office hours at times. I have enough credits to declare for a BA in History but decided to go for an honours. I'm just a few credits short and I'm thinking of going back in January. I get courses for free now because of my age - the only catch is, this particular university is nearly an hour and a half commute from my apt. - at least at the moment. As of this December the new subway extension will open and I can do the commute in less than an hour (no buses)! - Toronto is a large and spread out city! I would like to do a Masters just for my own personal progress but I'm not sure I'd ever have the dedication for a PhD - many people here take even longer than the 5 years. I have one friend who was at it for over 10 years and never did finish - and she's going to be paying those student loans until she retires. It's a lot to think about that's for sure!

    1. It is a lot to consider. You think the only issue is whether I'm clever enough to do it, but that's the least of the decisions. I hope you go back and finish your courses next year. Good luck with that. xxx