“Are you here as a PhD student, or as a Librarian? Or are you presenting today?”

Over the past week, I’ve been in at least three workshops talking about the experiences of being a PhD student. Today I’m in Monash University’s Art Design and Architecture Thesis Writing Bootcamp. Yesterday, I listened to three previous Masters/PhD students talk about their experiences of writing and supervision. The day before, it was a session for Design students on how to write a literature review.

The feeling of being an insider and also an outsider – an “objective observer” of the process – is so odd. The best thing about it is that last year, I felt so jealous of all the students around me undertaking major projects. Now I’m doing it too, which is what I always wanted. But I still feel conflicted. This has a direct correlation to my PhD topic. Today, I ask myself: am I a PhD student, or am I a librarian? Everyday, I ask myself: am I a teacher, or am I a librarian? What is this conflict I feel about being both at once, and do other people experience this conflict?

The space between being a PhD student and a worker is liminal. I’ve begun the “ritual” of the PhD, but still hold my pre-ritual status of being a worker, and in particular, as a “helper” of others undertaking their PhD (and this also presumes that I will be something altogether different after I finish my PhD). Is this the same for teaching? I don’t think so. Being a teacher is not a short-term part of being a librarian. Instead, it’s a sub-section of a role. Instead of moving back and forth between two identities (that of librarian and PhD student), being a teacher is a role within librarianship. But why does is feel as though it is a similarly complicated space?

Embarking and clarifying

I’m beginning my PhD and according to the affective domains of the RSD (Willison & O’Regan, 2015) I should be feeling “curious”. I am extremely curious about my topic, but these feelings are somewhat supplanted by feelings of insecurity… and also excitement.

embark border

Willison & O’ Regan (2015). RSD7: Researcher Skill Development Framework. Retrieved from http://www.adelaide.edu.au/rsd/framework/rsd7/

I began telling people I was starting my PhD when I first applied to CSU in late 2015. However, for many of the people I told, it just brought up their own feelings about further study. I was told stories of never finishing, of sleepless nights, of having no social life. These stories didn’t dissuade me, but I did read studies like this that say you should keep your goals to yourself in order to achieve them… Had I made a mistake in telling people about my intentions? Eventually my mum posted an announcement on Facebook, so it’s all out in the open now. 🙂

My main feeling is that I want to know everything now. Apparently, before I went to primary school, I was really concerned that I didn’t already know how to read, and someone had to explain to me that school was where learning to read would occur. I have exactly the same feeling now. I have to be more patient.