I haven't posted here in a while. I was sick in the months before Christmas, which took a lot out of me, and then there was Chirstmas and I took a break. Consciously. I'd intended to work on the week between Chirstmas and New Years, but I didn't. And I feel better for it.
I've been thinking a lot more about the concept of liminality in relation to PhD candidature, and, of course, I'm seeing it everywhere. People feeling 'stuck' or 'in a rut' and not able to see a way out; people feeling uncertain of their status in academia, in their program, in a department or in a teaching role and, most interesting to me at the moment, people resisting or dreading leaving a PhD program, either 'giving up' or completing and moving on to 'real life'.
It's hard to 'give up' a PhD. I think that people commonly defer, and then sometimes don't re-enroll. Kind of leaving by default. People still in the US I think, although not in Australia or the UK, take many many years over their thesis, sometimes in an attempt not to have to leave the 'safety' of grad school. (Here places are government or industry supported and are time-limited to 3.5 years fulltime.) Jo vanEvery, a Canadian consultant on academic careers and work, has written on alternatives to PhD and about leaving here (and in other places).
But what has surprised me is how many people seem to feel dread and fear as they near the completion stages. Often there is a real and rational fear of not having an income once they leave a funded program, but there is often a more primal fear, I think, which may be related to imposter syndrome, of having to claim the identity of doctor. For me, who's been part-time now for 5.5 years, it can't come soon enough. But maybe people who've rushed through a three-year thesis under pressure around a completion date, and have been absorbed by their project and thesis to the extent that they haven't been able to reflect on the process, do need to make an adjustment when the pressure is released and they are suddenly another kind of person, expected to take another kind of role in the world. I remember being told years ago of PhD students being advised not to take a permanent role at the Uni they did their PhD at straight after graduation, as it may take them years to work their way into their new role as a staff member. I wonder if this is true? I do remember one friend having problems with her supervisor after she'd graduated; he still seemed to think he had a right to direct her research (she was a casual teaching staff member at that point and had no compulsion other than her own to do research at all).
Does anyone have any insights or memories about leaving or finishing a PhD? I've been told about 'thesis grief' that might kick in when you submit, although I can't imagine it myself.