Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino, y nada más;
caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace camino,
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de pisar.
Caminante, no hay camino,
sino estelas en la mar.
Caminante – de Antonio Machado
Three and a half years into my PhD and I’m developing a more-than-mild feeling of cabin fever. I had been experiencing this ever increasing need to calm myself down and just let every one know that I should just call it a day with this thesis business, and basically just be on my way home, if you please.
A wise woman I know told me this sounds just like the transition phase of labour. Oh seriously? Not another pregnancy-as-PhD metaphor? It’s my baby? Come on! I know that metaphors can be really helpful at times, but I really think the logical thing for me to do now is pack up, and be on my way, thanks. I have 30,000 words to write, and I have until the end of January next year. Thanks, it’s it been nice knowing you, but I never liked Mission Impossible, anyway.
The Transition Phase (according to a reputable website) is one of the hardest parts of labour. Apparently there are 6 stages of pregnancy (some less reputable websites say 3, but I say pfft! to them):
- Early Phase: “Yippy! I’m in labor!”, which in real terms means: OK. I want to get this PhD business behind me. Let’s get that dang template out. (Or: Shit! My funding just ran out.)
- Active Phase: “This is hard work”. You’re putting all your case studies in chapters. You’re putting your experience and knowledge into good use. You’re starting to see that it might just come good! Yes!
- Transition Phase: “Okay, I’ll go home…”. What happened? You were working so well. According to the website, this is the hardest part of the labour. It says: “This is normal.” NORMAL?!? “This is normal. Remember that this stage usually doesn’t last more than an hour or two. Partners, your support is crucial here. Remind her how well she is doing, and help her find a comfortable position, use cold rags for her face, and give her sips of water or ice in between contractions. This is hard work.” Chuck that! An hour or two? That’s months in thesis-time!! I’m going home.
And who cares about stages 4, 5, and 6. I’m going home.
OK. Maybe that’s not a good option. And I do wonder how women who have a human being positioned to traverse their birth canal can think that going home is an option too. And it’s not. But wanting to just go home at this stage is a normal reaction to this really labour-intensive (no pun intended), emotionally charged situation.
Well maybe in the case of writing a thesis, packing it in is an option, but not a very satisfactory one. I think it is wise to calm down, and to accept that the transition phase is in fact normal. It doesn’t make it easier, but at least it helps alleviate the heightened sense of anxiety that comes with the process of writing up. This is normal, with a definite end date.