Thursday, 17 August 2017

Why it's OK to Quit.

So, I quit my PhD, and it’s been a strange feeling. I’m still formally in the middle of paperwork but by the end of this week I will have officially been withdrawn as a PhD student at Ulster University. This also explains why I've disappeared off here for a while.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s been an experience, and like all experiences it’s had its highs and lows. I’ve learnt so much and I’ve met some incredible people along the way, my analysis skills are the best they’ve ever been and writing 10,000 words in a short amount of time about anything within mental health is a walk in the park. I have a house that I can stay in for 4 more months till I’m comfortably settled, I have enough furniture to furnish anywhere I choose to live in the future and I can at least say I’ve lived in another country for a while!

Being so far away comes with problems – making friends has been near impossible, joining a project where everyone already has cliques makes it difficult and not being an actual “student” per say means student based events are awkward. Also, the project itself didn’t fully grip me – it’s an amazing project and I highly recommend anyone with the ability and passion for it to pursue it 100%, but computer science is something I will never truly understand on a level that’s required of me – maths is not my strongest suit and it’s a huge component of the project. I can’t enjoy a project where the methodology defeats me every time, if it fills me with sheer anxiety before every meeting, and that’s okay. Sometimes things don’t work out, but it’s better to make a decision the minute you realise something is wrong rather than go on for 2 more years and decide you hate everything you’ve done right before you defend your thesis.

With any career path, happiness is important – to me anyway. I want to be somewhere I can enjoy, and I know in this socioeconomical climate that can be difficult, but I CHOSE this career path because it was something I enjoyed. The further you go up the career ladder, you should never feel like you have to sacrifice your enjoyment – and that sounds like a privileged thing to say; and in some careers it probably is because there are no other options – but I know in the world of the psychology there are more avenues to pursue than the one I chose to go into and I can use my privilege to change that.

Further up the line things will get difficult, and sometimes I think people have difficulty differentiating between finding a job challenging and having a job they hate. Academia and research was the path I chose and I figured it wasn’t for me because I hated it – the difference between a challenge and hating your job is the enjoyment you get – you can find a job challenging and frustrating and even think of quitting, but you know deep down it’s something you love doing and if presented with alternative options you wouldn’t change it. With a job you hate, it’s the opposite – you would take any opportunity to change it, and that’s what I did.

I wouldn’t say I hated it because I didn’t, not truly, I just didn’t find the enjoyment or desire to overcome those challenges like I did with my undergrad or masters, and the minute I found myself looking at clinical psychology doctorates before my last meeting, that confirmed it. I found myself in a flood of tears and just telling my partner I couldn’t continue with it, I’d been thinking about it for a few days but I thought it was just pre-meeting anxiety, but after the meeting I realised it’s not a project I loved and work on to the best of my ability. It’s not fair on me, but it’s not fair on the rest of the team either, because this project comprises of teamwork and if one person goes down then so does everyone else, and I owe it to them to step out when it becomes sabotage because it’s the right thing to do. Continuing with a job or a project you’re not really into is not just self-sabotage but it’s putting everyone else on the line; it’s selfish. You owe it to them, and yourself to do better.

Am I sad? On the contrary I’ve never felt better. Talking to my parents and sister helped a lot – a lot of the concern was – what would they think? But I’m truly blessed to have such a strong support network and found myself almost surprised at their response; rather than berating me or being disappointed my mother found herself encouraging me to leave and telling me not to worry about anything – I still have my youth and 2 degrees under my belt, why should I worry? She’s right. I have nothing to worry about. My partner was my biggest support throughout, telling me to make the decision best for me and being there to hold my hand throughout. Having a support network is probably the reason I’ve had the courage to do all of this.

Am I worried about the future? Of course. I’m always worried about the future! But this is also the most confident I’ve ever felt about it. I’ve been wanting to throw myself into a job for a while and this is the perfect opportunity to do so – I can save up a little bit of money, whilst getting the relevant clinical work experience I need for a clinical psychology doctorate in 2018 or 2019. It’s a job that I know will keep me on my toes, and I know it’s something I’ll love because despite an almost 2 hour commute from Sheffield to Leeds every Friday morning, it was my favourite part of the week during my masters. It meant working extra hard to put the lost hours in for my thesis but honestly? I would do it over and over again. I’m not the kind of person who likes to be alone, and academia can be very, very lonely at the best of times, in a clinical setting you’re constantly surrounded by patients, professionals and the public; it’s a dream! There's still plenty of steps for me to climb, and although I may have tripped and gone down a few, that doesn't mean I still can't carry on climbing.

I love this game so much. I haven't loved a game like this since Silent Hill...
What about the time in between finding a job and now? Relax. The last 8 months have been stressful and it’s the perfect time to spend some time in England seeing friends and family. My WoW subscription is back up and I can indulge my Until Dawn obsession freely. 

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