Saturday, 26 March 2011

Top five reasons why I am doing my PhD

There are five main reasons for why I decided to do a PhD.  I’ll rank them here from bottom to top.

Number 5
So that, in my old age, when my best friend (who’s also doing her PhD) and I are living together and raising hell in some retirement village somewhere, when the phone rings I can answer: “Dr Ryan’s and Dr Kimberley’s residence. To which doctor do you wish to speak?”
Of course, her PhD is in psychology so if people need a ‘real’ doctor, she may be able to help them. I, on the other hand, will only be able to provide advice on cutting out dead words and sentences. Although, of course, I may manage to pick up a bit of neuroscience during my research and so may also be able to assist with a dodgy diagnosis of a neuropsychological problem (callers are warned to hang up straight away if I mention scalpels or lobotomies).

Number 4
So that my older brothers and sisters (I’m the youngest of five) will have to show me some respect and call me Doctor Kimberley. This is to compensate for years of having to relive the trauma of having the childhood nickname of ‘reek-a-russy-bubby-girl’.
Clearly, I want people to call me ‘Doctor Kimberley’. Of course, I could just pretend I was a doctor of some kind and lie to strangers, but I’m a very bad liar. Some of my siblings claim that they will refuse to call me Dr Kimberley whether I complete my PhD or not. I will have my ways of making them conform. They will pay for that ridiculous nickname and the fact that none of them ever even had a nickname at all. Ever.

Number 3
I’m a library nerd and I love books, and the best way to get the cheapest (as in free) and best access to books is to be a post-grad student. I just can’t get over the fact that I can ask for a book from any library in almost any place in the world and it will get sent to me. For nix. It’s like having a magical power.  Of course, it’s not a magical power like flying, but it’s close.

Number 2
Not only am I a library nerd, I am a nerd nerd. It’s taken some years for me to come to this realisation. I was never a nerd in school – I was the rebel. I demonstrated all the classic (and not so classic) rebellious behaviours, including (but not limited to)
-smoking in the toilets at school (and scoring a suspension)
-turning up to school stoned
-having a hallucinatory flashback at school and hiding behind a friend and pointing at the principal screaming “keep her away from me”
-starting my own communist party
-walking out of religious classes
-constantly challenging and arguing (always logically, of course) with teachers
-flashing my arse from the windows of the Year 12 corridor
-getting everyone in my extended friendship group to wear their pyjamas on free dress day (still not exactly sure why that one caused such outrage, but Catholic girls schools can be strange places)
But rebellion is for the young. So now it’s my time to be a nerd.

Number 1
All these are excellent and valid reasons. But the number one gong I’m doing a PhD is because it will make me a better writer. Doing a PhD involves research, lots and lots of research. And if I learnt anything from doing my Masters, it’s that research makes me a better writer. It gives me new ideas. It makes me think about those ideas in different ways. It opens up whole new worlds I never knew existed. It adds layers and depth to my writing. It makes me really think about the world I’m creating and the internal logic that holds it all together. The creative writing and the research weave in and out of each other, not seamlessly, exactly, but each feeding into and off the other. But research alone is not enough. The PhD also provides rigour and discipline. It doesn’t let me get away with anything. And that’s just what a rebel needs. No matter what you call her.