I used to travel a lot.
In a busy month I might spend upwards of forty or fifty hours in transit, shuttling between cities in the UK by train, going the final mile or two on foot or in a taxi. Thinking about it, I would stay in two or three cities a month. I would make small talk in hotel restaurants, secrete myself away in the corner of a coffeeshop for a hurried panini, and indulge in reading spy novels or occasionally plot out mad schemes for writing projects and new workshop ideas.
I don’t do any of these things any more.
Life changed. There’s now some of these things I can’t do, some I won’t do and some which I want to do but struggle to include in the new shape of my world.
I don’t miss the travel. I don’t miss being away. I don’t miss the hurried pace.
But I miss the space. I miss the difference and the variety. I am incredibly fortunate, all things considered. But there are still things that I would do differently now. It’s taken me almost sixteen months to realise that I have to make any changes that are going to give me the things that I need. To give me a cosy corner to think in, rather than just a desk to work at. To provide an hour here and there to relax and read, rather than just spend more time working. I am fortunate that I can explore how to make these changes and make them a reality.
I can only imagine what changes the last year and a half has brought for you. We can only imagine what changes the next year or so might bring our way.
If there are things in your PhD life that are missing and if your viva is coming soon, now might be the time to think about how you can bring those things back.
If you need space – different, bigger, better – then explore how you could make that happen.
If you need people – for feedback, for companionship, for learning – then ask the right people and see how you can make that happen.
If you need something, anything, you have to take the steps to get it.
Be clear about the need.
I don’t need to be on a train or in a cafe to read, write or think – I need a little space away from my desk to make my own.
Hence over the summer there is a corner of my office that is going to receive an armchair: a little corner to curl up in, read and dream.
What are you missing before your viva? What do you need? What will you do?