Researcher Life: You are growing

These days, every time I talk to someone who just started their PhD, I am reminded of the long way I have come. As it goes with seeing someone at a stage you were a few years back, I’ve started reflecting on how I have grown in the 3 years of my PhD. While everyone probably had this adult transition in their respective profession, here are the top things I’ve learnt in the past 3 years…
1. Keep calm and carry on – I got my first keep calm merchandise (‘keep calm and climb Snowdon’) magnet when I climbed Mount Snowdon in 2013. A year later, I started my PhD and I didn’t know what it meant to keep calm or what it meant to carry on when nothing was moving forward. Today, three years later, this is my favourite magnet to use on my metalic work board. I use it particularly for to-do lists that I know will not get solved easily ๐Ÿ˜‰
2. Prioritize health – When I started my PhD, I looked to people a bit further on in theirs. To my surprise, every other person I met either had psychosomatic problems (breathlessness, grinding teeth, muscle spasms) or had taken to weekly professional therapy sessions or both. While everyone I met and I myself had this phase, some stayed in it, some developed brilliant coping mechanisms to deal with stress in general. I would like to believe I’m in the latter group. Doing a PhD is an excellent opportunity to figure out how you want to live life. I say opportunity because this is the first time one can
1. Deal with issues in an adult way (specially if you went from masters to PhD almost instantly)
2. Figure out how they want to deal with the lemons thrown by life, and practice it every day for at least 3 yrs.
3. Being guiltless-ly assertive – A year ago I went to a self-management workshop for PhDs. One of the exercises here was to be able to say no, in a variety of work situations. I did all of these tactfully and successfully…all the while feeling good about it. That’s when I realized, I can be professional, assertive, straightforward, but not without doubting my decisions and feeling guilty. So this is what I worked on since the workshop – not just being able to be assertive, but not being guilty for being assertive. A big part of turning into an adult is just trusting your decisions, even when that means standing up to people in positions of authority.
If you are reading this as a 25-35 year old, in your PhD, or anywhere, struggling with understanding how life works and if you’re taking the right decisions, don’t worry! You’re growing everyday, even when you don’t know it. Just think of how you were three years back, and you’ll know for yourself! ๐Ÿ™‚

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