WHAT’S NEXT AFTER A PhD?

Hello world!!

The PhD journey has finally come to an end. I should be relieved, I think I am.  Another chapter closed, another milestone and achievement. I wish it was only that, then it would be easy to relish this feeling of accomplishment. But, finishing also came with the big question of WHAT’S NEXT? I never for one second thought that after going through all the stress of writing a PhD dissertation, I would still need to figure out what’s next. But, with all things in life, when you complete one phase, you enter another.

Change is inevitable. Change is uncomfortable…

Struggle 1

My life is about to change. I had settled into the routine student life for the past three years. I cannot imagine getting used to waking up early mornings and working a 9-5 job. During my student days, I woke up anytime I wanted to if I didn’t have early meetings and I could work until late or choose when to finish work. My schedule was flexible especially when I did not have deadlines from my supervisors. I don’t know how I am going to adjust to a new schedule.

Struggle 2

I cannot for the life of me, tell you what I want to do with this PhD. All I knew was that I wanted to do it and I am passionate about the research that I did with children and families. I have no idea if I want to continue doing that or get a job. One thing I do know is that I need a break to clear my head. I am picturing somewhere with clear, blue waters and white beach sand.

parked boat
Photo by Asad Photo Maldives on Pexels.com

Another thought I have is to continue writing and publishing from my PhD thesis, and possibly turn it into a book.  I have so many thoughts in my head right now, and to be quite honest, this is not what I thought would come after completing this milestone. I thought it would be easier to figure out my life than when I completed my first degree.

Struggle 3

I chose to do my PhD in Hong Kong, but initially, I never thought of making this place my home. I now have to figure out whether I am going to stay here or move to another place. We all know that moving is another big adjustment, I cannot even wrap my head around it. I get tired even thinking about it.  There will be a lot of things to consider: What will happen to my social life? Will I find a new church home? Are the locals friendly?  Most importantly, do I really want to move to a completely new place again at this stage of my life? Unfortunately, if I do decide to stay in academia, I might get a postdoctoral fellowship, which will necessitate a move to a totally different country. The chances of me getting a postdoc in Hong Kong are next to none. It would have been nice to experience life in Asia a little bit more, but it is a lot to even think about right now.

photo of a red taxi on a street
Photo by Jimmy Chan on Pexels.com

Silver lining

Wait, it is not all doom and gloom. I am now Dr. GG.

abstract bay boats bright
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

That is definitely a plus and well worth the hard work.  I am completely grateful to my Lord who saw me through the tough times and made my success possible. I also trust that He has my future in His hands, so although nothing is clear at the moment, I am confident in His plan for my future. With that, I do hope I will be back here with good news in a few weeks, telling you all about my next move. Another silver lining… I now have more time on my hands to write. I have so much I want to write about.

If you are reading this and have any tips about making a life transition, drop your girl a message. I always love to hear from you.

Until then,

GG.

Advertisements

The career crossroad…

What do people consider when looking for a job? Is it more important that you have job satisfaction or that you are paid well? Or are you like most people thinking of a job in terms of survival and therefore, it is about the pay cheque and nothing more? Are you in a career that has growth potential or are you working a 9-5 job with no prospects?

Time
I took this picture myself while at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay…a little fun habit I have picked up to create a collection for my blog.

My time is running out and in four months I am facing another life transition, this time from graduate school back into full-time employment. I have started asking myself serious questions. I have been wondering whether I have the luxury to choose a satisfying work environment, doing what I am passionate about (working with children), choose the perfect location where I can thrive or I will be faced with taking the first job that comes my way? Is there such a thing as a perfect career choice for a new graduate? I feel like a new graduate even though I have years of work experience prior to coming back to university. This is because I might transition into a completely different career than the one I was doing. I will let you know what that is once I figure it out. I took my thoughts to Twitter the other day too:

IMG_1845

I know there are people who are experienced in this kind of thing and they make so much money giving people career advice. I am so sure that most of their clients are people who find themselves at crossroads like the one I am currently on. I feel worse because I have no clue what I want to do, so even doing a job search is tedious. I have to first figure out where I want to go, what job fits my skill set and what the next year of my life can possibly look like. That’s right, a year is as far as I can think right now.

I know from discussions with two people close to me that I am not the only one going through this. Some of my friends are starting to have these same questions early on because they are questioning whether what they are currently doing is what they want to do for the rest of their lives. I can imagine the situation is worse for my peers back home where unemployment rates are way too high to even consider options other than survival. You hear people encouraging youths to become entrepreneurs, but can we all become entrepreneurs? I am of the opinion that there are people who do well at starting and running their own businesses, but it is not for everyone.

So I pose this question to you guys, how did you decide what you wanted to do for the rest of your life? Did you know instinctively that was the right direction to go or you got some help? What can help in this process?

Maybe you can help me clear my head.

GG

 

 

The Value of Good Friendships

A true friend is the greatest of all blessings, and that which we take the least care of all to acquire.

Francois de La Rochefoucauld

From recent conversations and generally observing the people around me, the value of a good friend has become more illuminated than it has ever been before. Having a good friend, even just one, is a really great blessing. A blessing which can significantly affect your life trajectory.

We often hear people talk about “the company you keep” and how “you are the sum total of the people you spend most of your time with”. I have seen this unfold in my life and those of the people around me. Most people do not invest much time in acquiring and keeping good friendships because we take it for granted. We think the people around us are good enough, but when last did you take stock of your friendships to check:

  • Are you helping each other to become better versions of yourselves?
  • Are you giving each other constructive advice or you spend time talking about other people or engaging in time-wasting activities?
  • Do you see your current friends in your future or you are just taking it one day at a time?
  • Are you being real with each other, or when you get together it is time to show off to each other, instead of building each other up?
  • If you would lose everything you own today, can you count on your current circle of friends to have your back?

If you can truly answer YES to these questions, then I can say you are in good friendships. Very few of us really take the time to evaluate our social interactions and this is dangerous. In 2018 and years before that, I spent a lot of hours with the wrong people who were not adding any value to my life. Only when you find yourself in the company of really good and meaningful individuals, do you start to notice the difference. I do not regret the people who have passed through my life, they also taught me a valuable lesson on friendships. Now, I am more careful who I bring into my circle.

18ACFBA0-ADF3-485C-A05B-D673CF918538.JPG
Happy to say that I have these women in my life

One of my friends said something that stuck with me this weekend. He was talking about ENERGY! and how each one of us gives off a certain vibe or energy which can be described as either positive or negative; life-changing and exciting or destructive energy. He said if you find people that are giving positive, life-giving, inspiring energy then reciprocate that because that is hard to come by. When it is reciprocated, it grows and you feed off each other’s positive energy and it can only get better from there. These are the kind of conversations I am trying to have in 2019.

Me and my close friends are always discussing pushing one boundary after the other. We are constantly challenging each other to do better and be better.  Me and Uche are always hyping each other up, calling each other boss ladies, LOL. It actually works because we put in the work to become what we confess everyday. We all need meaningful interactions, otherwise what are we expending our energy on? This is why it is also OK to outgrow some people and friendships that have reached a dead end. If the energy is off and the friendship has become more draining than useful, then it needs to go.

Wishing you a fruitful week and do take the time to evaluate and make solid friendships that make sense for your current life stage and for your future.

GG

The conversations I can’t have…

“…the words I can’t say are the holes I punch in the walls of my psyche…”
― John Geddes, A Familiar Rain

There are so many conversations in my head lately that I have found myself wondering when I will ever have the chance to let them play out in real life. So many unspoken words that I wish I had said, but never did. Why is it that we remember the parts of a conversation we should have had, only after that conversation is over? So many times I replay conversations and think, “I should have said this instead of that”…

I am slowly realising that part of the reason I have insomnia is because I have so many words that I haven’t said to people that are either gone from this earth or are still here, but lost to me. The weight of those words is heavy on my soul, as heavy as lead. I wish to have these conversations, but I am aware that some words are better left unsaid.

The weight of unspoken words is worse with people you know and love. When you cannot speak to the people around you, because communication is blocked or difficult. So you choose to have conversations in your mind that have no resolution. It is a mental strain of which if it goes unchecked, it can lead to withdrawal or random outbursts.

“why talk and say the unsaid words in haste when silence can speak the unspoken words?” 
― Ernest Agyemang Yeboah

For some, silence is golden, better than words said in haste. But you can only dream of the kind of connection where your silence is read appropriately. When someone can sense that you are speaking in your silence and act accordingly. This is a rare find and I am still searching for it. 

I am still trying to find an outlet for the voices in my head, find a way to make the conversations in my head come to life and be spoken. 

“I have buried dead bodies of unspoken words in the graveyard of my being” 
― Hilal Hamdaan

How do you deal with the voices in your head? Why are we so afraid to speak about some things? Do we fear rejection so much that we would rather leave things unsaid than express how we really feel? What drives you to silence?

A love story…

black and white color splash fountain pen hand
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

He loved me when I didn’t know how to love myself

He tried to heal the scars that others had left

I didn’t even allow him to love me completely, but he still did

I told myself I was done with love because I was scared it would always end in pain

He didn’t care. His love was like a balm to my wounded heart, but I wouldn’t love him back

For years he tried to thaw the ice that had settled in my heart. In a way he lasted so long because I knew I needed him, my heart needed him

I knew that even when I failed to show my love, he would make up for my lack with the abundance of love that he had

Love is sweet when two people love each other equally, or at least 60/40. When one is fighting to stay and the other is fighting to leave, it dies a slow death

He loved me with all he had and I lost him because of the ones who had been, the ones who were not him, but whose faults had left me thinking every man is a bad man

He wasn’t a bad man, and I knew that. But, I was too broken to accept that he could be different.

How I wish he was here today, how I wish I could turn back the hands of time. Because now I know how to love and he will never know it. Now I understand the kind of love he had, the unconditional, warts and all kinda love that he gave me when I was at my lowest; the always-forgiving kind of love that he gave when I didn’t even know myself, hated myself.

He loved me enough to let me go, hoping that one day I would come back to him. Now he is another woman’s husband. And she is one lucky woman. I just hope he still has that capacity to love that he had when I knew him

Now all I have are memories of the time he told me that I would never find another love like this…

Doing better at being happier…

I haven’t managed it yet, but I wish I could. It is just a realisation that I honestly need to step up my happiness game. Easier said than done but I have a couple of things that have jolted my memory to remind me of all the reasons why I should be happy:

How far I have come

Winding Road Photography

Anyone who knew me, say ten years ago, can attest to the fact that I have come a long way. There is this song that is driving me nuts these days by Nathaniel Bassey This God is too good where he says “Don’t look too far to see how good he is, just look at me…” Those lyrics get me all the time. I have had it good over the years, I have come through fire literally, considering my shady past. This is a very good reason to be happy because I can look back and thank God for how far I have come.

I have a good life

coffee, cup, morning

This depends on your definition of “a good life”, but by my own standards and not in comparison to anyone else, I think I do have a good life. I can pay my bills and manage to eat everyday. At the moment, I can afford to travel at least once a year, which is something I enjoy doing.   When you get to a point of needing nothing materially, which is how I can describe how I feel right now, then there is a lot to be grateful for honestly. Of course, anyone reading this might feel that there is a lot that we need in our lives, but I have learned to not need things I can live without. So you might see me without the latest car or not living in the most sought-after apartment or house and feel that I still “need something”.  In my opinion most material things are “wants” not “needs” and where I feel comfortable is where I am the most happy.

Good Health

Blue Shorts

I cannot overstate the importance of this one. After I submitted my first draft in December 2018, I fell sick for at least two weeks from exhaustion and fatigue. I hate being ill because it limits what I can do and where I can go. We take for granted that we can move our limbs at will and dance when we feel like it, because we are healthy. I listened to a sermon by TD Jakes where he spoke about a digestive tract disease which makes it impossible for you to digest your food. We take things like being able to eat and process our food for granted, only because our body parts are working perfectly at the moment.  I have every reason to be happy for my health because even wealth cannot be enjoyed by someone who is lying in a hospital bed.

The people in my life

My clique, though small is the absolute best. It includes my blood family and families I have made over the years, my friends. I like to keep my circle small and exclusive, only because we have been through so much together and I just cannot imagine life without them. They make me happy because when I feel down, for any reason or other, I can always call one of them and have a chat that will surely uplift me. We motivate each other to always be the best versions of ourselves and I guess we are trying to figure out this life thing together. I am also grateful for good conversations with the right people. These can turn any gloomy day into one full of sunshine.

Sunflower during Sunset

It is not always easy to remember the things or people that make us happy, but I think I need to try each and everyday to do this exercise. Counting my blessings helps to change my mindset from being disappointed, defeated and sad to a mindset filled with expectation of a bright future, victory in our pursuits and knowledge that I can always choose happiness.

8f0c4aea369111e3affb22000aa8059e_7

Hope this inspires you as it inspired me.

GG

Disclaimer: Images used are stock free images from pexels.com

Was that an anxiety attack?

I noticed I have been writing about anxiety a lot more these days. This is not surprising considering that I have been in a state of mild anxiety every other day for the past few months. Today I want to discuss anxiety attacks because I feel that in our society, we often overlook anxiety and brush it off as a normal part of our everyday lives.

Have you ever woken up to an anxiety attack or experienced it as you were busy going about your day at work or school?  This website HERE describes an anxiety attack with the following symptoms:

  • Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
  • Feelings of choking
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint
  • Chills or heat sensations
  • Paresthesia (numbness or tingling sensations)
  • Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
  • Fear of losing control or “going crazy”
  • Fear of dying

If you have ever felt the above, you have had an anxiety attack. I can definitely attest to the fear of losing control and that feeling when you think you’re about to lose your mind (approximately every moment of my adult life, LOL…I exaggerate, but yeah).

If only there was a way to stop thinking about the thing that is causing you extreme anxiety.  I started wondering why the mind does not have a switch to turn it off from certain thoughts or does it? What is the point of mulling over something that is obviously causing you to become anxious? You want to stop thinking about it, but the more you try to, the bigger it becomes. The image below comes to mind…

diaa6u9voaal5b7-11011051451113498740.jpg

Here are some of the ways that I find help to deal with anxiety since switching off the mind is not an option:

  • Try to reframe the anxiety-inducing thought. I always think to myself “since I am already overthinking, why not just think of the issue in all the possible ways there can be?” Reframing means I will be looking for a different explanation, a different way of understanding the issue. For instance, instead of thinking someone was mean to me today that means they will always be mean to me…they hate me and everybody hates me, I can reframe this by thinking, maybe they were having a bad day or this was not personal. Bear in mind this only works in a positive way if you are an optimist or at least a realist. If you are a pessimist, the end result is always negative and the anxiety will not go away. If you are an optimist, you find a positive spin to the issue or at the very least think ‘what’s the worst that can happen”. In the end, you feel better. If you are a realist, you will think of it in practical terms, which may or may not solve the issue at hand.
  • Try to think of something else.  This is easier said than done, but I always try to find my happy place. If I have time during my anxiety phase, I sit down and meditate on a happier time or I think of a person who always lifts my hopes up and give them a call. Sometimes I just make time to do an activity that I enjoy like writing (you will be surprised how therapeutic this activity can become for you). I think this also depends on the level of your anxiety, if it is mild it may go away for a moment or you get words of encouragement that will shift things around.  Some extreme forms of anxiety may need medication or to speak to a qualified therapist.
  • Try to avoid mood enhancing substances like alcohol or drugs. This has proven to provide temporary relief and no solutions. It actually brings an additional problem if it becomes a habit, addiction. The issues that were causing anxiety may become compounded or actions taken to try and provide solutions will all be bad ideas. I know a lot of people drink alcohol or smoke when they are stressed, but I have seldom seen this solving anything.
  • Check the people around you. I had a conversation with a friend yesterday and she was telling me how she started noticing that certain people were triggers for her anxiety. We often take this for granted, but it is very important. If you hang around people who are always negative and complaining, people who never look on the bright side or always preaching doomsday, you will find yourself being anxious more often. At least, that has been my experience. The opposite is that there are people who simply light up the room with their outlook on life. Having more positive people around you is good for your mind.  However, the trick here is to avoid comparing your life with others. Like my friend, she felt triggered by certain people around her because they were constantly speaking about how well their lives were going and she would look at her life and feel like she is lagging behind. Her crowd, although they were happy and confident people, was also not good for her.
  • Find your triggers. Building from the previous point, identifying what triggers your anxiety is a step in the right direction if you want to figure out how to reduce anxiety or stop being anxious. If you know what your triggers are, it is easier to work around them or avoid them. One of my PhD advisors is definitely a trigger for my anxiety. It is so bad sometimes that I try to avoid conversations with them until I really must.  This does not mean they are a bad person, I actually like my advisor, but sometimes I get so anxious around them or because of some comment they made that it takes days to get over. Most perfectionist bosses are anxiety triggers for many people because you are always under pressure to perform to a standard that will please them.
  • Last but definitely not least, PRAY.  If you are not religious, you may not find this useful, but prayer works for me. I feel a sense of peace after praying that I have never felt with anything else.  There may be different ways of dealing with anxiety in your faith, but my faith recommends talking to God and letting him know your worries, then trusting that He is in control of all things and He will turn things around for your good, because He cares for you.

How have you been dealing with anxiety in 2019 so far? Please drop me a comment.