Ten reasons for not ever wanting to embark on a PhD.

1. Distance from your family. You will never recover the time that you couldn’t be with them. You will miss important events with your children. You will not be able to go on date nights with your husband.

2. You will become a bit… dumb. Let me explain: you will miss the big picture. Your horizon will be limited to the subject of your research during a long, long time of your life. In many people’s cases, their dissertation will be “the” theme of their lives! (ouch, I know!)

3. You will become alienated. While your friends will discuss books you haven’t read, films you couldn’t watch, while they will be laughing at the latest political scandal, you will be sitting there with that estranged look on your face. Your friends will likely give up on you. Just saying.

4. Get used to it – very few people will read your dissertation: maybe just your advisor. Who will read the boring details that you wrote? Who will be excited about your extraordinary scholarship? Let’s agree: M.A. theses are more fun. They are more general, less engaged, maybe even creative. Less – what’s the dreaded word – “academic”. Your dissertation will collect dust on one or two library shelves.

5. You will become boring as hell, one of those one-track-minded sort of people. You will only want to read about “that”. You will only want to talk about “that”. Except that “that” is what nobody wants to talk about. Unless you are one of those few lucky people that ends up meeting another nutcase like you who would be willing to discuss your stuff. In which case, there will be no stopping the two of you.

6. People will get frustrated with your lack of knowledge. Since you are a Phd candidate, they will presume you know absolutely everything about your research area. When they see you hesitate, reassess or even question your own ideas, they will look at you sideways. They will think “hey, this one will never be a PhD”. It gets much worse if you are a teacher: students are the first ones to throw stones. After all, it is a universally accepted truth that teachers must know everything, especially PhD candidates.

7. There will be no time left for you to care for yourself. Really. In a what now seems like a remote past, I ran marathons. Even I find it hard to believe it. Your hair, nails, skin, will denounce your self negligence. This is quite embarrassing.

8. Another occupational hazard: your back will be totally destroyed. This happens to absolutely everyone. I spent weeks taking muscle relaxers because of all those endless hours sitting with a poor posture. Your physiotherapist will be your best friend, believe me.

9. The nail-biting meetings with your advisor. You will spend months on end reading, researching, writing, re-writing, deleting, editing a chapter and when you triumphantly succeed in scheduling an appointment with His Majesty, the comments will be generally negative. No advisor will praise you. They will be eager to point out the gaps in your text and will find your interpretation shallow. Your dissertation will never be, what’s that word again, “academic” enough in their eyes. Get used to it: you will never be like him.

10. Life! Films, movies, plays, vegging out in front of the tv, friends, dating, enjoying your kids, having a haircut, walking your dog. Or just the simple and unbeatable dolce far niente. There’s nothing like carefree idleness, a concept that you will be unknown to you during those dark PhD years.

Right, if I couldn’t dissuade you from embarking on your PhD adventure, I have at least warned you. What about me? Well, I miraculously managed to survive and come out somewhat whole (emphasis on somewhat). My back was never the same, though.

[this post was written months before I defended my dissertation, in 2007. It was hard going and a bit traumatic, as you probably guessed. I’m glad I could at least take a break from all the writing and have some fun laughing at my own misery.]


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