On the Thesis Path: February Funk

In this series, blogger Lucia keeps a record of her progress and experience in the months leading up to submission. To take a look at her previous post, January Blues, click here.

February is here and it’s gone. The shortest month of the year is also one of major changes, and most of all it is a limbo month, between the dreaded January and the ides of March. It is getting warmer, it is also wet, and people around you are burnt out and tired. At the time of writing, we are fast approaching the two-year anniversary of the start of the lockdowns and the official start of this pandemic reality we’ve been living in. So many people I know, and myself included, are still recovering from either getting covid, or from all the lockdowns and restrictions, or both, and a normal life in which most of us will have to keep testing, isolating every so often, is on the horizon. But at the same time, we are supposed to return to normal. 

Image credit: StartupStockPhotos

Thesis-wise it has been a slow month. In February I had several little mental breakdowns, the return of physical symptoms of anxiety that I hadn’t had in a decade or so, there’s been a very clear dip in productivity. It helps to show us that the process, and the progress, is not linear. Some people’s process might be extremely disciplined, due to their personality, the way they were raised, even culture can influence that. I am incredibly self-critical, and constantly feel like I am not doing enough. I often forget that my way of working has brought me here. I clearly know what I am doing, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing a PhD, right?

Well, sometimes I am not so sure of this, and I decide that I need to change my way of working, the way I organise my notes, the way I pull quotes, the way I do research, and the way I write. I tried to beat myself into a more or less evenly productive life and it’s made me miserable. Don’t get me wrong, the 9-5 life and the rule of taking breaks on weekends has helped me in many ways, but I forget sometimes that I also work best with intense bursts of high productivity peppered in with many periods of intense tiredness and lack of focus. I am trying to balance between having boundaries timewise, having a clear difference between worktime and down-time, with the way I work best, which is to sometimes work for 10 hours straight in one day, and then have no focus and do almost nothing for the next three days. 

February has been a month of taking breaks, establishing boundaries, drinking too much coffee, stressing about life-work, heart full and heartbreak. It’s bleak, and the highs and lows follow each other in quick succession. I saw a meme on the internet that said, in response to the cliché phrase “Life is full of ups and downs”, a person looking confused and angry asking “where are the ups?”. It might sound a bit depressing, but I could relate. And then, if you look back into the month, there were ups, I just failed to take proper note of them. When the only thing in your horizon is a goal that seems so distant while also, paradoxically, very close, we fail to see everything else that is part of the process, but which isn’t obviously linked to the goal. But there were ups, there were several ups. Most of the ups are due to friends being good friends. Cheesy, I know. So maybe the theme of this month shouldn’t be February Funk but February Friends. 

Here’s to the ups and downs, the highs and lows. 

What about you? Are you also on the writing path to submission? How do you deal with the ups and downs of life? Let us know in the comments below, by tweeting us @researchex or by emailing us at libraryblogs@warwick.ac.uk

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