Where do I begin?
Do I start with my teenage dreams of being a teacher? How I left those behind when my father died? Or do I start with telling you about my undergraduate degree in maths and philosophy?
How much should I tell you of my Masters, or why I didn’t continue working with my first supervisor from there?
When I talk about my PhD, should I tell you about the big results from my thesis? And if I do, do I leave out the miserable months of my second year when I could seem to make no headway? Should I tell you that those miserable months returned in my third year too?
What are the lessons that stand out? What are the moments I should share? What are the details that you need from me?
How did I get here? It depends on the audience. It depends on my mood. It depends on the story.
And in some ways it doesn’t matter at all.
A PhD story – or a viva story – can be useful. Listening to someone else’s journey is valuable; trying to tease out nuggets of experience and insight can be really helpful in finding things to try for oneself.
Far more useful though is the story you tell yourself about yourself.
I told myself I was lucky during my PhD, and it made me feel that I hadn’t worked for what I had.
Afterwards, I realised one day that I was fortunate – and that change of word helped me realise the work I had done, the skillset I had built and the confidence I could base on it.
My story? It’s good. It’s true. It’s changed over the years and stayed true.
What’s your story? Get it right, and it’ll help you through the end of your PhD, through your viva and beyond.