Now that the PhD is finally done here are my tops five reasons why I’m glad I did it.
1. It scratched my “itch” in a way that nothing else could. It answered a yearning which I was worried could turn into a regret if I didn’t answer it. My PhD tries to answer a question that has bothered me ever since I arrived in South Africa in 1996 – why is road engineering here the way it is? The book which answered that question hadn’t been written and the PhD helped me write my answers to it. If my “itch” had been how to make the finest stroganoff or how much profit can be made in investment banking then a PhD wouldn’t have cut it. But for my itch, the PhD was the most sensible route, even though it looked to others like insanity.
2. It helped me prove something to myself. I’ve always been restless. I’ve been accused of being unable to fulfill long term goals. The PhD took seven years to compete. That dragon about me not being able to complete long term goals? Slayed.
3. I got to grow and learn and be stretched. Doing the PhD was a challenge. In practice it was far more of a challenge than I ever expected it to be, and I grew up. A lot.
4. It gave me a refuge. It was a place where, in the midst of mothering and all the giving that entailed I could be entirely selfish and self-directed. It was a space of freedom which liberated me from my circular, perfectionist fretting about whether I was a good enough mother. It allowed me to escape from teas with competitive uber-moms and to side-step all the mother-competition stuff. In the end I swapped the anxieties of mothering for other sorts of anxieties, but for the most part I don’t regret that time. And I do think I was a better mom, on the whole, for having made that choice.
5. Last but not least: eventually, it gave me a qualification. Which sometimes is useful, but less often than I imagined!
Why are studying? What are your reasons?