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?

A humble homecoming

What to write after several months of silence? What to write after that? And that? Who is interested? Would I be interested?

Apparently, blogging is out. Vlogging is in. Or something else that I’m completely unaware of. But it seems I cannot resist writing. As a matter of fact, it has been writing that has kept me away from here for all these months. My PhD research has reached a point where I mainly write. Or if I’m not writing I should be writing. So after a day writing or feeling guilty about not writing, I seldom feel like writing more unless I absolutely have to.

Yet, this blog called me back. I have to. There is something irresistable about non-academic writing and freedom in style. Although academic writing is a delicate art of mastering various styles, I miss other styles too.

So here we are. Humbly back at home. But after this post, what to write about?

I look outside. It’s past midnight. Snow and slush swirls under yellow street lights in the sunless North European night. It could be a very dark midday. The weather is uninviting for outing but excellent for writing and reading, my two passions.

So that’s what I will be writing about: my writing and reading. It just happens that I’m a PhD candidate.

Should we take a blender? The realities of moving abroad for half a year

We are moving to Denmark for six months in two weeks time. I’m visiting Roskilde University, Centre for Social Entrepreneurship due to my PhD studies. Exciting stuff! This is what I have been dreaming about for some years now: visiting a relevant place for my work and gaining everyday experiences while living in a new environment. I like the idea of being annoyed by the morning traffic and finding my favourite place out of many great ones. These are the things you don’t have time to do on a shorter trip.

I just had completely forgot how stressful it is to move abroad for a longer time. I’ve moved abroad once before but maybe that doesn’t count as I was a teenager and an exchange student, i.e. someone else was organising everything and I was concentrating on smiling and looking happy.

It seems doing a grown-up exchange is a lot of work and moreover, a lot of stress. Furthermore, my family is accompanying me, which is extremely comforting but also causes some extra hassle. What are the realities of moving abroad for half a year? (Half a year sounds more than six months. Maybe with this stress level I should talk about six months.)

  1. Accommodation. The number one stress. It seems people are (a) unwilling to rent to foreigners at a distance or (b) willing to take our money via Western Union and leave us with plain air. At the worst-case scenario, Denmark as a welfare state has social service so when we sleep under the bridge (with a toddler), they would come and get us. Maybe we should take a tent with us and try camping (legally).
  2. Renting our own place. This is actually my spouse’s stress so I shouldn’t worry about it. Still, if we don’t rent our own, we lose potential income. If we rent, we would rent it furnished and what happens to my favourite tea mug? Maybe I should take it with me.
  3. What to wear. Major stress. Applies to all trips but this time I should decide six months before hand. Really, I should I know if I feel like red or green stockings? Maybe I should bring both.
  4. Paperless office. On top of everything, I decided that carrying some hundreds of journal articles, book chapters, and several books is not a good idea (as you noticed deciding what to take is hard for me). Thus, I have been setting up an e-office with a tablet (computer), PDF annotation application, synchronising etc. Yet I wonder, how do people find time to learn all this new stuff? Maybe I should bring some hard copies just in case my abilities are not developed enough.
  5. Over-packing. Obviously stressing for my spouse. In addition to a tent, favourite tea mug, red and green stockings, and some piles of paper, I have been thinking about bringing a blender. I admit it sounds odd. Yet, the thing I like the most, when being an adult, is knowing what is good for me and acting accordingly. And I know making smoothies makes me happy. Still my spouse thinks I’m exaggerating.

In order to escape my moving-aboard-for-six-months-in-two-weeks stress, I used my early morning to walk in an autumn forest and after that sit down and type this blog post. As an adult, I know what is best for me and today it was reaching out to you over a bowl of lingonberries & hot porridge and organic green tea.

My destress morning

How to manage my writing projects

I feel I have too many writing projects. First, this blog, which I don’t seem to update as much as I would like to. Second, my PhD project, which takes a big block of my daily writing time (as it should). Third, blogging occasionally about timebanking. Finally, my unpublished creative writing in Finnish. Creative writing is something new I have been doing this spring in a creative writing course and it feels great.

In fact, I think the problem is not the number of writing projects but the time available for them. As usual, I seem to have too little time to pursue all my projects. This is not good since I love writing. A though dilemma.

As I am told to be a practical person, I have started to consider how to manage all my writing projects. As a result, I complied a preliminary How-to-manage-my-writing-projects-list in order to manage them all. The ideas come from various sources, for instance academic and creative writing guides. And as I get enough of disciplined lists with my PhD project, the following list is completely incompatible, overlapping, and imperfect.

  1. Write every day. According to many (academic) writing tips, writing daily is the first thing one needs to do in order to get writing done regularly. Quite simple when you think of it. It is a miracle but I can actually do this.
  2. Write the first thing in the morning. It has taken some organising but I’m able to do this. The minute I wake up, I plot down my fist thoughts. Yes, it is sometimes hard and I have to give in and do it after taking care of my child or visiting the bathroom. By the way, hardly any writing guides mention either of these very possible morning interruptions. And still, most mornings I manage to write before I get out of the bed.
  3. Write the last thing in the evening. Now this is more demanding to accomplish. After putting my kid to bed, it is so tempting to enjoy the Happy Hour, namely the hour to oneself after putting kid(s) to bed and before going to sleep. For your information, I created this blog post during my Happy Hour.
  4. Make a list of ongoing (non-PhD) projects and deadlines. I would like to avoid this to the last moment since I need to compile lists at work all the time. Yet, it seems deadlines are good when trying to get things done. Also for writing non-PhD stuff. Thus, my very own great secret of adulthood: the most demanding deadlines are the ones you set yourself (because these issues matter you the most). In my case, they are the deadlines for getting writing done.
  5. Start a Writing Group. I thought of this only some days ago and now I’m very enthusiastic about organising monthly meetings to discuss attendees’ own texts and give & get feedback. I have already some people in mind I want to ask to join the writing group. Exciting!

If you have comments or additions to my list, I’m more than happy to get your tips.

Stating the obvious

I felt a tiny bit of discontent while reading a scientific article related to my field of study. It is not relevant which paper it is as there are many repeating the same pattern. Which is the following: After coming to conclusions of the paper I felt discontented. Either the authors should have kept the paper as simple as their message actually is or they should have aimed at a more challenging level of theoretical discussion.

Many papers are truly making a valuable contribution in their field at the given time by putting forward a simple argument with reasoning. It is fine by me. What I don’t understand is why authors are required to come up with a nice looking but rather disorderly theoretical framework when it is visible that they haven’t had enough time to think it over due to the publishing process.

Although it takes a-g-e-s to get a paper out of a review process, for the author(s) all the deadlines seem to come very soon. Thus, when there is not enough time for developing the paper, there is a great danger that it is not logical. Everyone trying to contribute to (social) science(s) painfully acknowledges this.

One colleague of mine was told that his/her PhD is stating the obvious. Together we tried to figure out in what ways social sciences should be coming up with “new” issues when we are studying the world as it is. Rarely some researchers “discover” a completely new theory or a phenomenon. Most of us don’t.

Additionally, it seems that the more time is put into research, the more obvious the end result seems. This is because this seemingly obvious research does a very good job in explaining the world and giving answers to interesting questions. Thus, I respect all the scientific hard work put into stating the obvious. It seems that without stating the obvious in a rigorous manner we are only stating what we think.