Some bugs just don't want to be squished, so learn to love them.

30 April 2017

Categories: PhD-Life (7) , Random (4)
Tags: random (3) , phd (9) , crisis (1)

Hello and welcome.

Those who know me personally would probably not expect this post. Or maybe it’s just me that has the impression that everyone around me thinks I have it all figured out. I have a great PhD topic, an awesome supervisor, writing papers in my sleep and getting things published. Chairing a competition and involved in lots of other projects, working all the time on all sorts of different bits and pieces. I may even appear confident in what I’m doing, as I’m mostly going for a “fake it till you make it” approach.

But this week was a difficult one. I am currently in York on one of the IGGI training modules that is all about communication skills. And one thing they keep drilling into our heads is that we must have an impact in the games industry. That, in the context of my academic life being a whirling tornado at the moment, led to a breakdown. Maybe it’s because I have been working so hard on so many things and not pausing to breathe. Or maybe I can blame it on others stirring up chaos. But this week I experienced what possibly a lot of PhD students do at least at one point in their years of study: what in the world am I doing and what for?

Normally, that’s easy to answer. I’m on a great program working in an area that will make a difference. Sure, there’s a long way to go and I’m only leaving small footprints in the sand at the moment, but at least I’m walking and at one point or another, I’ll get there - the games industry will want to use my AI in many ways and all will be happy. But this week, I did not believe everything I was writing down. I did not believe my tiny footprints would have an impact. I did not believe I could even continue walking this path. So I crashed down on my metaphorical beach and had a spontaneous chat with my supervisor, telling him I didn’t know how to answer the question, I didn’t know why bother do this at all.

That’s probably the first thing I’d recommend doing in this scenario: talk to the supervisor. They’ll be surprised at first - but that’s not unexpected, since you’re acting crazy, talking about running off to Mexico again, but this time seriously. But then they’ll support you in whatever you want to do. And you’ll also get stories of crazy things they did during their PhD. It’s not that out of the ordinary to panic and think you’re on the wrong path. Talking with someone who knows of your journey though, that helps.

It took a few days for my brain to get back on track, my heart to fall back into place and my feet to start moving again in the sand. To mean what I was saying and to get the will power to do my assignment which is all about that: why bother, what’s the end goal.

In the middle of all this mess, when I was lying awake in bed contemplating every decision I’d ever made, I had a random idea though. An idea of a project that got me excited again. That’s the second thing that helped me get out of the big hole: finding something else to get excited about. This particular something is very complicated and will need a lot of help to happen; I’m having a meeting tomorrow to this end, hoping it won’t turn out to be an impossible plan. Maybe soon I’ll reveal what the great idea is, when more things fall into place.

But in the mean time, I’m not quitting. And I’m not changing my PhD topic either. This time. (Just joking, of course!)

I bother because my small footprints in the sand are important to me. And they have to be important to me before they become important to someone else with bigger feet.

Analogy turned weird there. I don’t like feet.

P.S. This post was kept clean of noise in the memory of PhD topics actually dropped. I’ll also take this opportunity to mention that all images used on this blog are personal pictures that I am happy to share.

Have a lovely day,

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