Getting Ahead of Myself: Blogging & the PhD

Sometimes, when I cannot quite keep track of everything I still need to do to finish my PhD. Or worse: everything I might have done, or: the things I definitely should have done but cannot possibly do anymore… At these moments, lost in the mealstrom of worries and stress, I find that thinking about what I want to put in the foreword of my book calms me down.

The foreword is the part that most people will end up reading, anyway – let’s not kid ourselves. It is also the section I turn to immediately when a colleague finishes. Perhaps because the foreword is a reminder that beyond the exterior of the academic, and the elaborate results encapsulated in the thesis, there is a person with a network and relationships and that what really portrays strength is the appreciation of other people in one’s life in the midst of a commitment to the very solitary endeavour that is a thesis. It is wonderful to get a glimpse of someone’s intellectual biography (or the beginning of it), the serendipities and the efforts, the important encouragements and support systems, the people, the loves, the families, the friends.

Strangely (or perhaps not so much), with the advent of my work on my PhD project, I began to neglect the blog. Even more so when Pim and then Emmi arrived on the scene. And however much I might wish that it had been different; this is also one of the things that I cannot change now.

That being said, I cannot deny the importance of this blog in my own intellectual biography – and particularly in the whole PhD process, even if I have not been that present here for the past few years. Despite my silence and absence, I think I have come to understand the blog’s significance more and more during the past few months.

These are the things I contemplate when I draft a foreword in my mind. Why? Because, besides close friends and family and a number of colleagues: I think it is my blogging network that deserves pride of place in my foreword.

Truth is, I would never be the kind of researcher I am today without all of you. I would not be as critical a thinker. I would not be a feminist-in-progress, or not anywhere near where I am in that process now. I would forever be further behind on all the topics that you are so wise and adamant about.

The more I learn (and this is a never-ending process, right?) the more I see that the seeds for many of the things I signal now, were planted by things you mentioned years ago and that I did not realise were so integral back then. Please bear with me as I slowly work through topics you have worked through some time before, as I realise the wisdom of what you said back then, often only fully in retrospect. I continually wish I were as erudite and learned and thoughtful as you.

And in the midst of this ongoing process, you have been so kind and patient. The loneliness that is seemingly integral to pursuing a PhD has been much less salient because of you.

So, while it might be a long while yet before I get to write my actual foreword, I wanted to say this, perhaps a little bit ahead of time: Thank you ever so much for the conversations, the reading, the writing, and all the support.

2017.

Hello, 2017.

It seems these past years I am always late in welcoming a new year. And I rarely get the chance to reflect on the past one. It is something that I miss, something that Bas always says is intrinsic to me, and I think he it right. But in between the hurrying to finish work, the taking care of the children during break time (Bas works during the holidays) and my sister who always visits around Christmas, I have not had much time to myself. Do not get me wrong – I enjoy the Christmas holidays. But I do miss time for myself and for these sorts of things.

So here I am, sitting down to try and catch up. Sort of.

I won’t go into 2016. It was a very special year for me (our daughter, Emmi), a hectic one (work-wise), a worrying one (the world). I find I have very little to say about it now, except that I am so grateful for Emmi. She is the happiest girl and simply holding her cheers you up.

On to 2017.

I feel I should have a ton of good intensions. But the exact contents feel a little personal, or not defined enough yet, to share. I did single out 12 themes (which seems to be the thing nowadays and obviously it got stuck in my mind), that I would loosely like to focus on:

  1. PhD
  2. Career & work
  3. Health
  4. Environment
  5. Read Up
  6. Social Justice
  7. Planning
  8. Kindness
  9. Finance
  10. Create
  11. Memories
  12. Fun!

Some of these are inevitable (I will have to come up with some sort of plan work-wise, since my contract ends in April). Some are things I want & need to finish (PhD thesis!). Others have to do with this feeling of wanting to be more engaged with the world, social issues, politics. Some affect my personal life most of all. Most are a mix of the small and the big picture.

2017-goals-2

I will probably tell you more about each of these over the course of the year. I would not be me if I did not have sub-items for each of the themes. Things I might want to work on in small doses, or little projects that might be done in a month. Some are entirely too optimistic (saving money when you are about to lose your income? Then again, until April, this is probably the wise thing to do), others should be achievable. But that’s what goals are for right? To have something to strive towards, not to end up with a perfectly checked-off list. Also, I noted them down and now that I look at the subitems I ofcourse already want to change things around. But: onwards!  (I have to encourage myself, because I tend to become embarrassed about this sort of stuff, and sharing it makes me feel vulnerable).

Mostly, I want to do good, better. I want to stand still and appreciate the little moments. I want to overcome some boundaries. I want to listen. I want to learn to speak about things. I want to engage. I want to work towards something meaningful. I want to hug and appreciate and be kind to loved ones. I want to create time and calm in the midst of the multiple storms. I want 2017 to be a good year, despite the political odds. And if those dissapoint, I want to at least be part of doing something about it, and not just sit and watch and be sceptical and afraid.

So yes, I have plans. Even if they still are, and probably sound, extremely vague.

Last but not least: I wish you all a happy, loving and healthy 2017.