It is a reasonably odd feeling, when something that took up so much of your life is over. A PhD creeps its way into every nook and cranny of your being. It crowds relationships, puts plans on hold, judges when you are watching TV, interrupts all conversations, creeps into dreams, and of course cements itself on your LinkedIn and other professional platforms. It becomes a pretty defining feature of a person. If I went on a reality TV show I would be “the PhD student”. For me, this was not all by accident, I was incredibly proud of the fact I was doing a PhD and enjoyed telling people what my job was. I honestly dreamt of having that Dr. title for what felt like an eternity. I would daydream about the first letter arriving with Dr scribbled on the front. Boast at the fact I wouldn’t be a Mrs, because I would be a Dr.
Now I have my PhD, I achieved something incredible and something that only a small percentage of the population will. I receive emails correctly referring to me as Dr. (these are no longer just from predatory journals). I have a job I really enjoy. But it no longer feels like the huge deal that it did when I was still a PhD student. Perhaps, like many things in our life, the build up is more extreme than the actual event. You know those things that we dread and when they happen they aren’t so bad? Or those things that we are so excited for and when they occur it feels as though we blink and they are over?
I thought that having a PhD would be my defining feature. But now I am not so sure. It is an example of some of the features that for better or worse define me… my resilience, my stubbornness, my workaholic tendencies. But it is no longer what I would use to define myself. We are made up of so many little parts, some parts bigger than others, but still so many parts. Stitched together with experiences and time and people we meet.