What to do after finishing a PhD? Where to hop next?

Finishing a PhD is something I dreamed about for (too) many years. And now that time is here for me. In 18 days I will be up there giving a public lectio based on my doctoral dissertation and then defend it (publicly) for up to 5 hours. Usually all of this takes approximantely two hours. It is great to be here, less than three weeks from the defence (and the party that follows it).

Yet, I experience this sense of a lost direction. Of course I have plans for my future. I have planned to a new ethnographic fieldwork related to degrowth organising and self-employment, for which I have already started to do some preliminary work (more updates at ResearchGate).

Being in a PhD program is (or rather was) not always fun, as anyone who has survived it can tell. But it is familiar. Life after PhD is unfamiliar and that’s scary.

While experiencing this sense of a lost direction, I should be delivering many things, e.g. revising a manuscript, applying for postdoc funds, preparing my public speeches (two for this Wednesday and of course the Big One on 28 October, i.e. The Defence). But it is hard to start, because there’s no certainty where I am going.

In the meantime, I’m happy to learn how you manage uncertainty. How do you handle the fact that after finishing a big project you don’t know where you are heading next? Bad TV is not a good enough answer. I tried that and it doesn’t seem to work.

Where to hop next?

From being a writer to writing

I’m about to attend a writing course in Oriveden opisto. It is my first get-away writing course and it feels like starting primary school. I have no idea what to expect! Although I want to take someone’s hand and ask him or her to escort me I know I need to do this by myself. Only I know how this will sort out. Thus, it is better that there is no one bothering my concentration.

When hearing I’m attending a writing course, a relative of mine asked me “So, you want to become a writer?”. I was struck by this question and in a short moment went through several thoughts. Of course I want to become a writer! Being a writer is my secret dream of all ages I have dared to think only for some times now. Oh, but do I need a permission to become a writer?

And that’s it. The question of “Do you want to become writer” is also a matter of others’ recognition. My self-confident me would tell you the following. I am a writer. You see, I’ve been working on a BIG book for two years already and aside written a short story or two. Additionally, I have been purposefully writing every day for more than a year, and sometimes even this blog. However, my less confident me insists adding some clarifications. Yeah, the BIG book is a non-fiction PhD research gaining an audience of 3 people (my supervisor, examiner, and mom). And the one single concluded short story is unpublished and quite clumsy. So not much of recognition there.

Great. No matter how much I detest identity work it seems that that’s just what is going on here in relation to being a writer. Silly me, I thought there would be absolutely no space left for such a debate after drastic academic identity drudgery. Yet, I find myself asking: What does it require to be a writer? Who decides that?

Before waiting for my answer, my relative commented that Finland is full of detective story authors. I sighed and smiled. To my relief I was not required to revel my unsure identity. Thus, I just replied that detective stories are not my cup of tea, as I seem to prefer science fiction, at least as a strong side flavour.

Conversational wittiness will not save me from private Analysis Paralysis. Thus, I have decided to just write. It is quite simple actually. You write.