From mongrel to El Zorro (or self-help on a guilt trip)

I think I have taken a small step away from being a mongrel. A mongrel is supposed to scrape by and make a small living out of trivial things and focus mainly on her PhD like there is no tomorrow, because nothing is more important. Nothing was more important before because PhDing always trumped working in hospitality. By a mile.

But things are different now. I have a job in my school – a real admin job. A job in which I sit all day long in front of a computer and do important things that I actually care about, and which is teaching me a lot about the backstage of an undergraduate degree. It is really exciting, even when I wake up in the morning knowing all I am going to be doing is dealing with a spreadsheet.

The power relations between my PhD and my new job are changing. They are now equally important. And what is worse, I find myself skiving off more often than not from my research duties. It is normal, at the end of the day, to feel drained about stuff, isn’t it? So why should I go to the office? I have many years until completion, one afternoon won’t hurt me. And with this mentality, I have wasted away about 5 weeks. In all honesty, I have also incorporated a conference and a basketball camp in those first five weeks, so technically I have not been solidly working and skiving my research. But it feels guilty. It feels guilty that books are accumulating in my office or in my house and that I am not doing anything about them. It feels guilty that I have not enough books to read, and not enough time to read them. I am scared that I will not find a good argument to show for by the end of August, when I have mentally scheduled and pushed myself to “Start writing”. How is writing ever going to happen if I am actually enjoying life instead of putting some (not a lot needed either!) hours in the office?

This feeling is aggravated by the fact that my supervisor is the Head of School and I work alongside my Research secretary, who on the first week asked me “When are you going to work on you PhD? Completion, completion, completion!”. Yesterday I was introduced to the Dean (who I knew beforehand as well), who also looked puzzled to see me working full time. “So you work full time during the day and work on your research at night?”, she said. I said yes but lately I have not been faithful to that idea. This is something I have to change very soon if I don’t want to go from my current “mildly concerned” status to “at the verge of a nervous breakdown” which I feel is certainly looming. I will take the Dean’s word literally and upgrade the mongrel inside me to a more El Zorro perspective. El Zorro, after all, really matches the sort of researcher I need to become: someone of Hispanic descent, who looks great in black, who leads an exemplary life during the day and is the defender of the poor and underprivileged at night. Yes, that sounds more like it.

As usual, this blog post is supposed to raise my awareness to this particular situation in order to overcome it. I have done that before. I know this is not what blogs are for, but it gives an insight into the life of the part-time researcher. It’s a mongrel life after all.