Two years ago, I moved to the Netherlands to start a PhD, thinking that it would be a breeze! Oh, the nerd I thought I was... the girl who was always always good at school, who supposedly excelled in any summative assessments of knowledge. In reality, I was quite good at following instructions - I knew what was expected of me, and I knew how to deliver. It was easy to function within the little box I was placed - school was a part of my life I had complete control over, and following the rules it provided for me was a breeze. What I have learned in the past 2 years is that a PhD is nothing like school, and that the learning I must do now is utterly different than anything I have ever done before.
A breeze? Heh! A PhD has been more of a thunderstorm, dragging me wildly through the sea, ravenously introducing me to new fields of knowledge, overwhelming me with in numerous questions and sparse answers. There is no longer anyone telling me what to do, how to do it - no perfect roadmap that I can follow. During rare occasions I find myself in the eye of the storm, feeling enlightened and absolutely certain of the importance and relevance of my work.
Most times, however, I find myself in between waves of excitement and new ideas which seem to be sending me towards steady land, and waves of confusion and drowning despair.
I find safe haven when I am able to quiet the storm in my mind, and accept the intermittent waves of confusion and enlightenment as part of my trajectory.
During my high school and graduate studies, I was placed in a box and made myself comfortable in it. During the past two years during this PhD, I have been trying to tear that box open, sometimes with my bear hands, sometimes with scraps I manage to turn in to tools. Now more than ever, I am discovering myself, my capacities, my interests, what it is that really makes my wheels turn.