Another day of post-PhD blues…

It looks like this is going to be a series of posts related to my post-phd transition and the depression that I have now come to know about through experience. If you have not already, you can read my previous post  Post-PhD life…when will this phase end? . I am writing about it as a way of coping with it and I also hope that this could inform other postgraduate students of its existence.

I am currently in the 4th week since completing my PhD and I did not expect to feel the way I am feeling. Nothing and no one prepared me for what I am going through now.  These are the signs of my post-phd tension (I don’t think I am in full-on depression mode just yet).

The not knowing what to do with myself

The first few days after my exam, I just didn’t know whether I should sleep all day or go to the office like I was used to doing for the past three years. Now, four weeks later, on some days I happily sleep in and  tell myself that I deserve the rest, but on other days I feel so guilty that I am not doing anything. A close friend of mine said that I just don’t know how to relax and that made me think, mmmh, perhaps! I wrote in my previous post about how I am trying to stay busy, but not all days are the same.

 The stress comes from not wanting to do anything, but feeling guilty when I don’t, if that makes any sense.

 Anxiety about the future

Because I am completely surrendered to God’s will for my life, I am actively trying to avoid any negative thoughts that might make this situation worse. You know those “you’re not good enough”, “you cannot do it” type of thoughts.  They are very unhelpful, but they do creep in from time to time. The expectations I might have had during my PhD about life after the degree might not be what I am experiencing, but I still have hope that I will feel that sense of accomplishment one day soon and it will not be fleeting or momentary.  Everyday I wake up, I remind myself of His promises about my future and his plans for me. I am sure you know which verse comes to mind:

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Comparing myself to others

Now this is a slippery slope, because we all have different life journeys and we will not all get the same opportunities at the same time. If one of the graduates in my cohort gets a postdoc or a job offer before me, I should not be discouraged. I am trying to fight the urge to look at how others are faring with their transition and the effort itself is draining. It is a conscious effort I have to make everyday.

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The grass always looks greener on the other side, so I am trying to stay on my own journey and experience it for what it is and not based on what is going on with others around me.

Checking emails

I dread checking my emails now, but I kind of have to check them everyday in case something important comes up. The only emails I want to see right now are the ones where I am being offered an exciting new position, LOL. The rest are just causing unnecessary tension in my life right now and I cannot deal.

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By Liss West for Hashtag The Planet 

I could not get out of bed today

Not from a lack of trying, but I just could not manage this activity today or interact with a single human being. I did manage to write this blog post, so I cannot say I have been completely idle, but outside of that, I really cannot be bothered to do anything today.  If this happens again tomorrow, then we might have to call this something more than tension. I am also dreading social engagements because I really am not in the mood to discuss what is next in my life when I haven’t even figured it out yet. The pressure to have it all figured out is what is causing all this tension in the first place.

The above may be completely normal adulting blues, but because I am experiencing this shortly after completing what should be a huge milestone in my life , it is making me reconsider if it is normal.

If you are reading this and you feel this is normal and it is just a phase which will pass soon, please drop me a message or send some encouragement my way. I will greatly appreciate it. Maybe you are also going through the same thing for completely different reasons, let me know what you are going through and how you are coping. There is strength in community!!

Till next time,

GG

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Post-PhD life…when will this phase end?

A couple of months before I completed my PhD, I started sending out job applications. I filled out countless job application forms, each needing a cover letter and often had to change my CV around to suit each position. Before starting this process, I sought out a mentor in my department, a Professor whom I admired and asked her for advice about the job hunt. She told me three things:

  • The academic job market is a jungle
  • It is survival, not of the fittest, but the most persistent.
  • Getting a job in academia depends on the relationships you have built over the years through networking.

She also said that I would need to send out 100 applications in the hopes of getting one. I took her advice and started applying, but I was never prepared for the constant stream of rejection emails that ensued. I never thought an email could spoil my day and the first rejection email, I took it well because I had been told this would happen. However, after the twentieth or so email, you start to feel a little discouraged. But I carried on with the applications because

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I found out that post-PhD depression is an actual thing. Some statistics in this blog state that 80 % of postdocs (someone who has completed a doctoral degree) hope to get a tenured academic position, only 10% get that offer. This leaves the other 70% feeling like they wasted years of their lives getting a degree that cannot land them a job. The writer of the article also said something about our expectations as doctoral graduates not matching the reality of what is out there in the job market. He also suggested taking a step back and rethinking your goals and values.

I came across this quote and I think it is so profound.

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Instead of wallowing in my discouragement, I am going to use this opportunity to encourage others who may be going through the same thing and for current students to know what to expect post-phd. Every case is different of course, we don’t all go through the same trajectories. What I am doing now to deal with post-phd stress is to take it one day at a time. I was comforted the other day to realise that I am not the only one going through it and I have started engaging in conversations with others around this.

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What this has done for me is to remove the mentality that I am the only one going through this and to just keep going. Understanding that this is a transition phase and with all transitions comes this period of discomfort as you try to find your feet again. I do hope the phase will end soon, but what I have also been trying to do is to enjoy the moment. I have nothing going on right now, I should be enjoying this free time before actually settling into a new job. This is the time to find a new hobby, start an online course that might be useful in the future or catch up with old friends. I recently attended a Christian youth camp for a week, and that was a nice new experience for me. I made some new friends and spent time in a new location. I also stepped away from my current circumstance which gave me a new perspective.

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Shouldn’t be difficult to spot me in this pic

By refusing to view this stage of my life as negative, I am slowly changing the narrative.

Boulevard of broken dreams

My shadow’s the only one that walks beside me
My shallow heart’s the only thing that’s beating
Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me
Till then I walk alone
~Green Day-Boulevard of broken dreams

There is this space filled with dreams that have never materialised, dashed hopes, unmet needs, unlived moments. The space filled with a lot of unfinished business and a lot of unspoken words. I am walking on this pavement that feels like my feet are stepping on broken glass, every step filled with regret. My heart heavy, my head full of shouting voices which refuse to shut up.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Have you ever met someone and felt like your whole world was going to burst into flames and be consumed to nothing if you don’t get to say hello? Sounds like an acute case of infatuation or something I cannot describe. I wouldn’t know about it because I am usually the level-headed one. I don’t believe in love at first sight or even the idea of falling in love. I believe in well-thought out actions, but emotions such as the one described above do not and should not make any sense.  And they demand to be felt.

I digress…

I am still on the boulevard of broken dreams. The path of nothingness, no joy or excitement, same thing everyday that I am sick to my stomach. What happened to dreams of laughter and conversations underneath the stars. They were just that, DREAMS. Why do we crave what we see in dreams? Who has ever actually found proof that dreams come true? I am of the opinion that the only dreams that actually come true are those we work on. They don’t come just by us wishing they would. So, why do we spend countless hours daydreaming, focusing our minds on the things we wish for and sometimes knowing that they will never happen–still we carry on dreaming. It is like an escape, a fantasy.

I want some reality for a change. I want to feel real emotions, I want to experience real things. I want to go on that trip to that amazing island, I want to stop dreaming about it. What stops us from living the DREAM? What stops us from facing the one who makes our hearts flutter and throwing all caution to the wind. Why do we prefer to be more courageous in our heads than we are in real life? I am having the kind of dreams that will totally consume me if I do not get to live them. I can already feel myself in my dreams and they feel so real.

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Photo by Marcelo Moreira on Pexels.com

As for my dreams, I think at this rate, they can only come to life through prayer and fasting.

Life is too short, what is stopping you from living the DREAM?

 

A survivor’s tale

It’s only when you go through something you never thought you could ever go through and survive, that you can truly know what you are capable of.

Before that, you only have a faint notion of what you think you can manage, an assumption based on your confidence in yourself. This is a reflection post about the past few months when I came face to face with my own weaknesses and came out with knowledge of what I can and cannot do.

I never knew I could work 12 hour days, sleep for a maximum of 4 hours and get up and do it all over again. I never knew I had the capacity to stay human enough on the outside even though i was on autopilot. It is a wonder that I managed to dress up and look presentable enough for human standards…nothing too impressive but just enough to not attract unnecessary attention to myself. In other words, I did not become a  hobo, although the temptation was so great.

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Image from http://www.deviantart.com

The months between April to June 2019 showed me that I can work under extreme pressure while also realising that I am very task-oriented. If I have a task before me I will work on it until it is done before I can allow myself to rest. I am not sure if that is a good or bad thing. I also learned that the human body will shut down on you if you do not give it rest, hence the 4 hours I allowed myself to sleep when I could. Some days it was less than that.

I also took for granted my ability to FOCUS. I still wonder how I was able to work on one thing for the past three years and I am happy that I managed to complete the project in  record time and survived to tell the tale. I  definitely had days of procrastination and days when I felt demotivated, but giving up was not an option. Now, if I could just apply the same energy and focus to certain aspects of my life, like relation…s, never mind.

The past season of my life has taught me a few good things about myself that I didn’t know before.  Of course, at the time I did not know that these were good things, I was simply going through the motions and actually hating my life. I remember tweeting this on one of those very difficult days:

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Well, now  I have my life back. I survived and I am looking back at the lessons I learned during that time. In summary, this is what I learned about life in my most hectic life phase and I hope this will encourage someone who is close to giving up:

  • You are definitely stronger than you think you are
  • This too shall pass, nothing is permanent
  • There are lessons in every season, your toughest season can become your testimony and might help one or two others
  • Your breakthrough is closer than you think, if you could just keep digging.

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In conclusion, I always like to give credit where it is due. None of my success in the past few months would have been possible without my God. There were times (many times) when I wanted to give up. There were countless times when I felt inadequate and felt that I did not know what I was doing, imposter syndrome anyone? But then there were those days when I would wake up with a random idea at 2 am in the morning and start typing. There were also days when I felt supernatural strength and a solid presence providing comfort during the dark days. God was with me every step of the way.  All glory goes to Him!!! I am capable only because He makes me ABLE. 

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Photo by Luis Quintero on Pexels.com

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.

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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.

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Photo by Jimmy Chan on Pexels.com

Silver lining

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

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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.

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?

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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:

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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.

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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