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The day after the viva

I think it is going to take some time for me to fully process what happened yesterday.

The bit of the iceberg that is visible above the surface is the public outcome – I have passed my PhD but need to add a few paragraphs by way of clarification and explanation and to write the conclusion that I couldn’t write in December (see my blog post of 29th December). There is nothing too arduous there – and there is no way I am walking away at this point when realistically there is probably no more than a few days work involved.

I guess like many others, I am a little confused about who I now am. I’ve got lots of congratulatory messages calling me Doctor, but I know I’m not quite there yet – I’ve got that bit of work to do, its got to be approved and then ratified and I don’t formally get the degree until I graduate.

The more interesting effect of yesterday – and the one it will take time to process – is around changes in how I view myself. Whether it is because of the persistence of the imposter syndrome, or because of hangovers of inadequacy from earlier academic journeys, or because of some of the challenges of this journey as I have sought to use methods and ideas not usually used in my discipline, I have felt a need to be cautious in saying too much about my work. Sitting in a room yesterday and hearing two senior academics talking positively about how I had brought different  theoretical ideas together in a way they would never previously considered was a real eye opener. Yes, we talked about other ideas I could have considered or incorporated, but I was not in the position of having to apologise for what I had done, or to defend it in any negative way. Instead, what I had done was valued! Similarly, I was encouraged to write about my findings, not just because I was saying something that is not currently in the literature, but because I was saying something one of my examiners wanted to be able to cite!

I don’t know how I will feel in a week, or a month, or a year, but for the moment, the main takeaway from my viva is a realisation that I have got something worthwhile to say and that I can say it with confidence!

Over the past few years like most PGRs I have read a number of texts about ‘the viva’, preparing for the viva and possible outcomes, and various survivor accounts. I am very glad the advice from my supervisors was to view it as a conversation – which is what it was. I understand a little better why the viva is viewed as such a watershed. At this point in time, I just feel it was a privilege to have two senior and respected academics taking the time to explore aspects of my thesis with me, both finding the holes that I knew were there but, more importantly, helping me see that I have done something worthwhile and well worth sharing and shouting about!

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