It’s Official! I will do the PhD, I will go to the ball.
I was offered a place at the University of Southampton back in February so why the decision now? I’ve spent two years applying for funding. I’ve learnt a lot along the way so I do hope it hasn’t been time wasted. I’ve been waiting for the gift from heaven and wondering why nothing has happened.* I got a bursary when I was doing the MA Creative Writing so I was very lucky but I wondered why it was so difficult to get funding for a PhD.
One day I accidentally, or maybe the angels conspired, came across the CV of somebody who had got studentship from one of the London universities. He had gone to Cambridge, he had two A4 pages of awards and he was a *first* class *star*. Apparently studentships tend to be awarded to those with a first class education. This was never going to be me, I was lucky I could even read! Why was I even bothering? However, I thought somebody might see the potential of the research. The invisible made visible. My supervisor at Southampton always has.
The dates for awards passed, some organisations let me know, others said if you don’t hear by a certain date you have not been successful. I have not been successful in gaining funding but I feel successful. For over three years I have been researching and learning more and more about my subject: care leavers in fiction. However, the reality is, how can I study without financial support? Others have done it, so why not me?
I wanted to study full time, I did not want to work. Does that sound selfish? I made that decision based on various things:
1) I had suffered ill health in the past and I worried that working and studying could set things off again.
2) I remembered studying for the MA and although I had children to look after at the time, I wasn’t working so I had freedom to think, to get lost in my imagination and to write.
3) I wanted to concentrate on the PhD and not worry about work, the horrendous journey, or the changes that keep on happening in my NHS library. We have been under threat for a long time now, we have had our bags packed for six years, we are due another restructure… It is tiring, it is depressing and it takes its toil on the human psyche.
I thought that my PhD dream was over. Though I would never just give up. I began to think about writing a journal article and to continue with the novel. And then I saw a post about the university league tables. Southampton had climbed to fifth place. This made me want to attend even more.
Later that same day, I saw the tweet opposite. It was such a relief to see my secret finally exposed. I was definitely *other*. Sarah went on to ‘Storify‘ her reasoning behind the tweet: “I wish I could write without deadlines or encouragement. I wish I had the courage and the discipline and the fire.”
I identified with a lot of what she discussed: deadlines; laziness; support and structure. I so need this and one other element, the academic environment. I really enjoy being part of a university, the access to resources, the learning, the lecturers, the ideas and the education.
One other thing that happened was a discussion with a friend, who already has a Writing PhD. She said that the PhD had really helped her writing and that the research was all about becoming an independent researcher. It was the ‘independent’ bit that stayed with me. Being independent. Relying on oneself to get through what will be a difficult journey. I began to think finances: ‘What if I let a room? It’s only small but somebody might like it. Could I reduce my working week? What if I studied part-time?’ All these questions, and workings out and I decided that provided I was very disciplined, I could just about afford the fees. The fares, books, laptop, and accommodation (when needed), would be more difficult. It was a start. I had not only made a decision but I was also going to finance myself and become an independent researcher.
*Some very lovely people have donated to my PhD fund and this will go towards fees.