Can’t I just play a little longer?

Today my university membership expires. It’s six years since I started the PhD and six months since the degree was awarded.

I have been in a post-PhD slump. Struggling to imagine what next, while busying myself with school work and other immediate concerns. I have applied for a plethora of suitable and unsuitable jobs; few of which have resulted in interview. These have swallowed whole days and gobbled up weeks. I haven’t really let myself step back. To think what I want to do.

It takes time to work through ideas. Time to look away and wonder. Time to play.

As my access to the university ends, I really wish that I had made better use of it. If I could re-do the last six months ,here’s what I would do…

I wouldn’t look at the thesis for the first month; it has been good to take a break from it in order to see it a little more clearly. Then I would focus on publishing what I can of it; I intended on doing this straight away, but there was always something pressing to get done – mostly job applications but also school work that inevitably stretches into non-school days. Book proposal in, I would move onto planning a post-doc, until the book proposal returns either accepted so that the thesis needs revising or rejected so that the proposal needs re-working.

It’s easy to look back and realise what would have been more useful than chewing my way through job applications, given that I didn’t get any of the jobs that I applied for. Some of the applications have been useful. I know how close I was to some. I realised what I was lacking for others. But I should have made better use of the six months where I had access to the university’s resources. On the eve of losing it, I am frantically trying to predict what I might need in order to do research that I haven’t planned yet.

But even more perhaps, I wish that I had taken more time in the last six months to appreciate what I have done in the last six years. Not just the bitesize morsels served up on job applications.

I have loved having the support to research and make performances. As well as the opportunity to engage people in conversations about family history. I want to keep doing this. The time spent playing the family history board game opened windows onto so many histories, personal, local and global. Sitting in a café talking to friends, family and people that I was meeting for the first time – never strangers for very long – was special and important. Each game an archival hub and a knowledge exchange. I hope that I can do that again.

This is the end of my tenth year at Sheffield University, spread over twenty plus years. I know how difficult it is to stay connected once I am outside the institution, but I resolve to keep playing.

The Image Speaks Exhibition, 2018. Photograph by me of photograph by Andy Brown.

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