There are things they do not tell you when you start your PhD. They do not talk about the doubt, the fear, and the uncertainty. They do not tell you things become bigger and are magnified: if you used to have a little bit of trouble with procrastination, it’s becomes bigger during your PhD. If you used to be a little insecure, it becomes more. Everything you find difficult will magnify.
They do not tell you that you will be confronted with your own limits and limitations. Whatever they may be. They do not tell you that you sometimes feel very unhappy during your PhD. They do not tell you that you’ll be jealous of others for whom everything seems better and easier than for you. They do not tell you that sometimes you think you cannot write.
They also do not tell you that there will be days that nothing seems to happen, and that there will be days you feel miserable and down. That there are days you think you’re not smart enough for a PhD. That you think you’re the only one struggling, and that all goes well all the time for others. They do not tell you that you will not dare to say to others that it’s not going well. They do not tell you that you think if you actually say out loud that you have problems, that they want to get rid of you. And for sure won’t offer you a position after your PhD.
They do not tell you about the loneliness. They do not tell you that you think no one understands you. They do not tell you you think it’s never going to be finished. They do not tell you how at the beginning it seems that you have lots and lots of time, and how in 2 years time you find out you don’t have a lot of time at all. They do not tell you how frustrating submitting an article can be. That it seems a lottery and that it takes for ever.
They do not tell you how many times you have to rewrite your text, so you think no one will ever want to read it. They do not tell you how confusing the meetings with your supervisor can be. That they sometimes say left and the other time right, so you get lost. They don’t tell you that it can be very unclear what needs to be done. That you feel you’ve done it all in vain.
Those kind of things. That is what they do not tell you. But they exist. They belong to a PhD as well.
What to do if you encounter one or more of the above? The best remedy is to talk with other people. With your fellow PhD students, with your supervisor. Or with an outsider, like me.
And know that you’re not the only one struggling. This awareness can make everything a little lighter already.
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