Life & Times #1 – What Is Life?

Girl smiling in a field on a windy day

I wanted to write honestly and openly about how I’m feeling at the moment. Although blogging seems to be composed of well thought out posts that are structure to hit SEO targets and goals, I originally set this up as a place to share my life – something I haven’t done very much of.

Most of you will know that I am a PhD student in a School of Medicine meaning that a lot of my time has been dedicated to the lab and less so on hobbies. I am fast coming to the end of my time as a student (my submission date is the end of April, with some flexibility) and I can’t help but wonder what is life?

I am grateful for the offer of a scholarship and for being given the opportunity as soon as I finished my BSc but I’m left asking what more is there to life. More often than not now I get caught in a spiral of anxiety and imposter syndrome surrounding my PhD, career and future prospects. When I stop and look at some of my classmates and see them with houses and families, I feel like that is what I should be aiming for next but is it really what I want? Honestly, I’m not entirely sure. There’s forever the massive pressure from a lot of people on the aspects of settling down but I’m not sure I want to run with that crowd right now. I feel like those classmates knew it was something they wanted and committed to it – I’m not ready for that commitment

Girl in a field on a windy day with her back to the camera. She is looking over her shoulder, back towards the camera.

Somewhere along the way in the last 4 years I lost myself. I’m not fully sure of who I am anymore or what I enjoy. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not on about the career path I’ve chosen, I mean all the other bits that make a person tick. I dread ice breaker style questions that are meant to allow you to get to know someone because I never know what to say. It scares me that I no longer feel like myself.

At the moment my deadline fills me with dread for two reasons; 1) Someone will have to read my thesis and ask me to defend it and 2) what do I do with myself after I’ve submitted? I will suddenly have free time and I have no idea how I will fill it and although I laugh and joke with friends and family about sleeping days away and the return of my appetite I’m terrified that I have essentially forgotten how to live.

Girl in a field on a windy day. She is seen, unfocused, through tall blades of green and yellow grass.

This might seem like a really dramatic post but as it stands this is exactly how I feel. I want to make a commitment to myself to rediscover my hobbies when I have finally submitted and to hopefully feel like myself again – maybe even improve on my old self by trying new things. Until then I’ll attempt small changes (like easing back into blogging) in hopes that the low-level anxiety regarding my identity can be subdued.

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Why am I so nervous about the future?


When I finished my undergraduate degree I remember I was ecstatic to think I had finally achieved my goal. However I was also filled with an overwhelming sense of dread thinking of what I would do next. I adored research and chose to apply for a postgraduate degree and was lucky enough to be accepted onto a PhD. Not only did this mean I would be doing what I loved but also meant that I no longer had to worry about my immediate future. For the next 3 – 4 years I had a plan.

In the grand scheme of things 3 years is actually not that long. I am fast approaching the end of my postgraduate studies and if anything the original dread I felt is beginning to amplify.

Whenever I tell someone that I’m currently doing a PhD I’m usually met with the reply of ‘You won’t struggle to find a job then.’ It would be a lie to say that wasn’t also a contributing factor when I accepted the position. Postgraduate degrees are meant to give you the upper hand when looking at the career ladder. So why am I so nervous about the future?


Regardless of the few extra years in academia that I have under my belt, I feel the hard work is only just about to begin.

Justifying my research through papers, grant applications and fellowship applications is going to be a whole new learning curve. Postdoc jobs depend on funding and there’s no guarantee that your contract will be renewed. My lab has seen some wonderful researchers leave as they can’t be paid. This fact also means that we need to be more flexible and go where the funding takes us. This appeals to me at the moment as I wouldn’t mind working in a different part of the country or a different country entirely. As I get older though, I also question what that means for me in terms of setting down roots.


During my time in academia I’ve been able to plan in advance for years. Now, a lot of uncertainty lies ahead and I’m going to have to learn how to take each day as it comes. It’s hard not to be nervous about what the future holds but I also know that worrying obsessively isn’t productive. I am trusting that things will play out like they are meant to and have to have faith it’ll be in my favour.

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