Run up to the viva

Quite a few people will have heard elsewhere that I had my PhD viva yesterday, hence the blog silence for a few days (why yes, I did pass with minor corrections, thank you for asking!). I will post separately about the viva, and will also post pictures (I have been faithfully still snapping away for Project365), but while I’ve not been posting I did creep in to record what happened in the week leading up to the viva, so here it is. Warning: the first day is rambling drama queenery.

[Started on 9th March] I’m posting this as a draft, to be published once my viva is over. I don’t want to broadcast the viva details to all and sundry in advance in case it all goes horribly wrong, but mainly because I don’t think I can handle the constant “how is it going?” “how is it going now?” “are you nervous?” etc. Not that I’m not massively grateful for everyone’s interest and support, I couldn’t have got this far without it, but now I’m so near the time for V-Day I’m a bit oversensitive and up myself about it.

Anyway. Tomorrow I have one week to go. Which I think makes today V-8.

V-8. Just today and tomorrow left at work before I take the week off to prepare. The last couple of days I’ve been feeling quite emotional. I’ve been thinking back over the more than 5 years since I started this, and am sad that because of the funding situation where I had to do all that teaching, and then having to go back to work after 4 years, I feel like apart from the months when I was doing my fieldwork, my PhD was always on the back burner, there were always other things I had to prioritise. Some things were good (getting married for a start!), but I always resented the teaching and marking and the massive amounts of time and energy it seemed to take out of me, meaning that I felt like I was always giving my thesis (and HD) the leftover energy. That’s been even more the case since going into health visiting again, and although it got a bit better with me going down from 5 to 4 days a week, the PhD did still get the dregs of energy after all the rest of it was used up, and I felt like I threw it in rather than submitted it properly. Even since it’s been submitted, what with my two jobs and all I’ve barely looked at it since (although I have thought about it a *lot*, and also dreamed about it a few times as well, rather traumatically!). But now I’ve got the week off coming, the intention was always that for this week, nothing comes between me and the thesis and, unlike most of the rest of the whole process, for this week the thesis is the absolute priority. I don’t think I could walk into the viva and get through it if I didn’t feel I had given it at least that.

I felt quite tearful at work today. This week I had a student nurse start; usually I really like having students, and this girl is really nice, but I’m finding that my usual thinking time, either at my desk or in the car between visits, where I’m reflecting on work, just isn’t there as I want her to make the most of the learning so am doing lots of teaching on the job. So I feel like I’m not thinking about work as deeply as I should, so I’m making silly mistakes like forgetting to bring my diary to clinic, or forgetting to phone people or write such-and-such in the notes, and that is stressing me out, never mind with the viva looming as well. And then my colleagues (who are lovely) keep asking me about the viva, because they care and they want me to do well and want me to be OK, and I feel so mean getting fed up of explaining all about the process *again* (I wish I had a £ for every time I have explained that submission doesn’t mean it’s all over, and then that once I’ve had the viva that doesn’t mean it’s all over, as I’ll have corrections etc – it’s really exhausting!). And then they are also talking about their own holidays, and I am feeling so resentful that apart from long weekends here and there, pretty much the only stretches of decent annual leave I’ve had this whole leave year have both been taken up with the thesis, and whilst they’re in the sun by the pool reading their books and drinking cocktails (which sounds like my idea of heaven right now!) I’m going to be in the library slogging my guts out *again*, and I just wish they’d talk about something else, but I can’t say that because it’s not their fault I’ve made these choices. But I am tired of it all and can’t wait for the week off anyway, I won’t be giving work a second thought while I’m off.

And then I get home, and in the evening find an email from the department saying that one of my colleagues passed her viva today with minor corrections only – that’s always such a good thing, O and I started at the same time here and she’s done so well, I’m so happy for her and am smiling as I then notice some more emails headed “Re: Viva Date”. And then I discover that there is potentially industrial action happening next week – on V-day, obviously – which, if it goes ahead, would leave me without a chairperson or internal examiner. Various emails are exchanged between the various parties with suggested other dates, and I just can’t believe it. Next week is off so I can prepare and think about nothing but the thesis right up to and including V-day, I haven’t got any more annual leave, and now there are suggested other days later in the month and no thought about how I have to arrange days off with my colleagues to make sure we have cover etc. So I send them an email pointing this out (hope it wasn’t too petulant – I was certainly feeling petulant) and then I have a big cry because it’s all just too much. They don’t know when they’ll know the outcome so think we should work towards it still happening on V-Day, and then if they don’t know by Monday (ie V-3) they’ll decide then to change the date. I’m feeling utterly disempowered, everyone is making decisions without me it seems, and the very week that I was putting my thesis first and it might be for nothing. This is really horrible. How am I supposed to do my planned preparation over the weekend, with all the adrenaline and psyched-up-ness of knowing the viva is only a few days away, when I don’t know that any more? But I can’t not prepare as planned as I haven’t got any other bloody time to do it. It is technically possible I could rearrange my week off, but as I won’t know till Monday what’s happening I’ll still have to take that day off anyway, which means if it’s arranged for a couple of weeks’ time I won’t be able to take the full week off before it that I always wanted and felt I needed. And even if I can rearrange the time off, that means I’ll have next week with no work arranged and my student all set up with activities elsewhere, and then I’ll have another week where I have to rearrange cover. I’m just beside myself. Not happy at all.

*And* I need to complete a job application this evening for a job down south (as HD has a job interview in a couple of days down south so that’s on my mind as well). I don’t think that’s going to happen in this mood – I think I’d better go to bed and do it early tomorrow morning before work when my head’s clearer. Great.

V-7 What a difference a day makes. The job application is sent off (posted and online, so no excuses not to consider me!), and I managed to speak to my supervisor who told me that they have rearranged the viva for next week after all, just the day before originally planned, so I don’t need to rearrange everything at work. This is good – less time to prepare, which isn’t so good, but also less time to panic, which is a very good thing indeed! I think they were also relieved that I’d started my email acknowledging that they were all in a difficult position, rather than just having a go at them (there is some form in the dept for viva date cockups), so I’m hoping that that will at least favourably dispose them towards me. I did say to her “you know what I’m like, can you imagine what a drama queen I was being last night?”, to which she laughed and said “yes”. Oops! Anyway. So now this is V-6 rather than V-7.

V-5 I need to finish my last few OU essays for marking and prepare a tutorial for tomorrow (at which I am not sure any students are actually going to come. Great. I’ll take the thesis with me and spend the 2 hours reading it if no students turn up). If I can get that all out of the way today then I can spend the rest of the time only doing the thesis. I’ve decided to go offline from today to help with that – I can’t afford to be distracted. Although today there is the news of the terrible earthquake in Japan, so I want to keep looking online to make sure people (especially marmot, in Hawaii) is safe from the tsunami.

V-3 I woke up to a discussion of the week’s news and review of the Sunday papers on the radio. One of the items discussed relates to work and makes me annoyed, but annoyingly I didn’t hear which paper it came from. HD listens again later so I know where it’s from and who wrote it. Unfortunately it’s from a paper with a paywall, so I can’t read it online (well I suppose I could, but I don’t really want to pay a billionaire any money, especially for an article that will annoy me!). I guess I’m in thesis/research mode, as apart from feeling annoyed I also think “I could maybe write an article about that”. Thesis-wise, I went into the university library instead of church, as I’m finding I’m getting really sleepy in the afternoon, and if the bed is there I just go for a snooze and then find myself waking up 2 hours later, which isn’t very conducive to revision! I chose to sit in my subject area at the library – usually I go to the top floor because it’s light and airy and has good views, but everyone else usually has the same idea. Thanks to belonging to an obscure department, that bit of the library is empty. I think I’m hoping that being surrounded by books of scholarship in my area I’ll get brainier and more knowledgeable by osmosis. I read through the first half of my thesis – actually it’s not that bad at all (apart from the typos, the shame of it!). Have quite a few “did I really write that? That sounds quite impressive” moments.

V-2. More stuff on the radio this morning about yesterday’s annoying article, which is picked up in a couple of other papers. Use my brain today and actually think to buy them rather than leaving it to online chance. Before going out though I had to phone work, as last night I remembered a couple of things I’d forgotten to do which couldn’t wait till I got back. Hopefully now I can stop thinking about work altogether!

I went back to the library, same floor, and read the second half of the thesis. It’s all OK I think, though chapter 6 isn’t quite as good as the rest (I think I knew that anyway). I also managed to find the time to catch up with a couple of friends in my lunch break. Everyone seems very confident I’ll do OK, and I mostly feel OK about it myself. Am a bit annoyed with myself though that I’ve found a few places where I quote sources (and reference them) but then didn’t put them in the bibliography, so I’ll have to dig them out at some point. Hopefully if I can present the examiners with a list of typos and things I’ve noticed there will be a shorter corrections list.

Wonder how I ever did my first degree – I did regular all-nighters and they didn’t seem to bother me at all. These days I get to 6pm and am no good for anything, I just want to sleep.

And I’m really missing the internet! Might have a sneaky look at some blogs now ….. not much brain power left for tonight …..

V-1 Back to the library, read most recent book chapter by external examiner (very useful – it’s musings on methodology and her research used very similar methodology to me). Pop into the department, everyone is very lovely and supportive. Plan last minute answers to potential questions. I’m sure I ought to be in more of a flap than this.

Things to do tonight: find shoes, make sure outfit fits, type up list of typos (which runs to 6 PAGES, can you imagine my mortification?), go to friends’ place for cake (v.important job, that), probably lots of other things too but I can’t remember. That’ll do for now.

Later on V-1 – Shoes found (HD had tidied them away in one of his periodic tidying frenzies). Trousers don’t fit though, so I’m going to have to resort to the cheap shiny work trousers which I can at least do up. Pass the cake.

V-Day! Feeling OK, I start the morning by printing out my list of typos and checking a couple of references, then it’s off to the Cathedral for Morning Prayer, as I wanted to start the day calm and centred (it worked). Then off to the library to reread some of the thesis – concentrating on the Introduction, Conclusion and 2 lit review chapters. Realise around 11 o’clock that there’s only just over 2 hours to go. Feel sick. Have lunch, sit in uni chapel and say a little prayer. Then to the department …….. [to be continued]

7 thoughts on “Run up to the viva

  1. Congratulations ‘Jack’. I’m glad to hear you passed and only have minor corrections to do. Good timing on my part, then, to return to the Wibsite today. I would ask what your thesis is on, but you seem a little guarded about the subject.

    Will you have to change the name of your blog, or have you any more studies planned.

  2. Thank you! The blog name may well change, yes – I had originally planned to be doing more studying but pulled out as it was all a bit much!

  3. I’ve just been doing an NVQ level 2 these past 2 years or so and with everything else that has been going on I’ve found that too much, although the tedium was another factor that made it drag on. I can’t say I was enthusiastic about it. It’s all very well when you are a student and your studies are your main focus, but when you are older there is so much else going on, plus it is harder to burn the candle at both ends – although you are somewhat younger than me.

  4. I can’t believe I’ve known you throughout this entire journey. I’m so excited for you! (thanks for the spoiler up front — still interesting to read the journey).

    Congrats dear girl.

  5. Wow, that was a brilliant read. And how to leave us on tenterhooks (though actually of course I just had to go up your blog to find the final installment.) What a week. Huge congratulations again.

Comments are closed.