Dear The Internet,
My birthday was a lovely day, but I had to still work over some of it, as well as the day before/after, so my actual birthday time didn’t last as long as I wanted it to. I am now officially a grown-up. Mostly.
Wow so it turns out I’m doing pretty good on my essay marks. Like… if I’d had these sort of grades on undergrad, I never would have worried about whether I was smart enough to do an MSc. The difference bipolar meds have made to my ability to achieve and learn things has been profound. I think the fact that my PTSD has receded a lot (compared to even last year) has made a big difference, too. There was a 21 gun salute going on for over 10 minutes beside the department, timed right in the middle of my Evolution class today, and I did not dive under a table. I wanted to… but I didn’t. I definitely got stressed and stopped concentrating, but I didn’t even need to stick my fingers in my ears or show any outward signs of how I felt. And that’s fucking progress.
I mean, I can’t not be happy with the grades I got today… I can’t actually get a higher grade at this point, so going for essay feedback was a strange experience, especially since the university is a lot more diverse now and 90% of the faculty aren’t former Oxbridge dons any more (the dons have mostly retired). So from not having gotten a poor mark, and not having the same type of staff, today (essay marks/feedback day) didn’t go as expected. I didn’t spend all afternoon sitting in various offices around the department being questioned as to why I bothered coming to university if I was going to hand in such complete shit. It was refreshing, but it also wrong-footed me, because I’m so used to getting everything wrong. Since when did the university get so touchy feely?
The thing is, the only thing that’s changed in the 7 years between undergrad and now is everything. Okay, that was a terrible hyperbole and also possibly a bit inaccurate, but y’all know how much I hate deleting sentences once I started them. I’m not sure I can quantify the changes. The university is more relaxed, that’s for sure, and there’s more friendly staff instead of grumpy ones. But their standards are inescapably higher than when I last attended. I don’t think they would let someone on to their undergraduate degree with my high school grades any more. There’s just too much competition for places (and only 1 in 30 got a place the year I applied), so it’s a bit surreal being on a course with people with 1st class degrees and high 2:1s, knowing I’m probably the very least qualified person out of the 140 master’s students in the department. And I’m still getting A-plus grades. Sorry, I’m not trying to gloat, but I know some of you were rooting for me to do this MSc and I wanted to, but I wasn’t so sure it was a great idea (and others of you were convinced it was only going to end in smoking ruins where the university used to be). So I thought it was worth an update.
I am pretty sure the reason I’m a better academic writer these days is down to having worked as a teacher, followed by my recent experiences in academic publishing. I read a lot of articles and I get to fix them and make sure they’re at their best when they get published. That makes a person better at spotting mistakes in their own work. I can’t deny that writing my romance novels definitely improved my overall quality of written work, as well. It’s easier to improve when someone points out specifically what you need to do to fix something, than when someone just yells at you for doing it wrong again, or ignores you.
So anyway, I went to a lecture this morning where one of the department’s more research-focused members of staff explained the procedure for applying for a PhD. And now I’m considering it. Is that such a bad thing? Yay women in science and all that jazz… Except… well… we were planning to move to Canada (or maybe New Zealand) next September, and if I’m doing a PhD for the next few years, that’s going to cause problems. Unless I do one in Canada. But their funding is idiosyncratic – some of the deadlines were in August which is probably fine if you’re on a two-year master’s degree but we cram them into one year over here. Anyway, trying to do my branch of obscure science in Canada makes finding a PhD all a bit more difficult because my subject is defined as something totally different in North America, and I don’t think the stuff I’m currently doing really exists over there, because whatever you think I do, it’s probably not what I do (except one of you. One reader knows what my research interests are, because we hang out sometimes IRL). Case in point: for my master’s thesis, I’m studying a supercomputer.
So the decision over whether to stay and get a PhD or emigrate and get a happier life is currently proving difficult. Britain is really shit right now for those of us with a foreign name, and I don’t see it maturing like a good bottle of wine any time soon, but if I want to do a funded PhD I would need to stay put a while longer. So I’m probably not going to get a PhD, which is a shame because there’s a past version of me who is yelling at me from the entire 90’s, because she’s very disappointed that I didn’t choose education/career over love. Actually, I’m pretty happy with my career and prospects at the moment, so she can shut the Hell up. My publishing placement’s going great and my writing’s mostly where I want it to be; I just wish I had more time for it but that was always the trade-off this year. I guess the PhD would have been utterly gratuitous. My husband’s probably right; I’d get bored in 6 months, and then I’d get distracted by writing again.