Why only share the exciting news?

For this week’s newsletter, I started writing about my research and the insights I gained related to my projects. After all, I just presented and published my first paper and could do with a nice celebration of completing my first chapter of my PhD research. Besides, I’m already working on my next chapters and have been putting a lot of time in conducting interviews, transcribing them and now starting with the first analysis. Starting a new research is always extremely exciting and a great way to start 2022.

But while writing about my work I couldn’t help but feeling exactly not excited. I found myself reflecting on the past year and realised that my PhD so far has been relatively lonely. Not that I feel lonely; probably I feel more “disappointed”. What I mean is that when I applied for my PhD project, right before the world suddenly closed down, I envisioned myself and the act of doing research in a certain manner. But circumstances got in the way, and there I was, working from a 1p studio, trying to make the best of it.

People sometimes think that being a researcher or scientist involves being a hermit. And in some cases this might be true. Perhaps, being an introvert myself, I too show a particular amount of hermit behaviour. However, it is my belief that a researcher also (or mainly) needs to connect with other people. This sparks enthusiasm, ideas, motivation, perseverance, relief, and many other things that are much more difficult to achieve by yourself. To some extent this is probably true for many professions, but my point is that starting researchers (and PhDs like me) need these connections to craft their own research and minds. They depend on it. Most research or ideas just don’t emerge or evolve without.

When I started my research, just after the peak of the first wave, everyone in my surroundings told me to not worry about it. I suppressed a grim voice in me fearing: “This is going to drag on until after I finish my Ph.D.”. Almost two years later, my grim voice is still there. In my surroundings I also see more and more (young) people struggle with some of the often overlooked consequences of covid. How to build a strong network during lockdowns, home-working and online conferences? How do we release and share daily tensions that everyone experiences, without bumping into each other? Has anyone noticed how little opportunity we have left to casually show people that we care? How much effort it cost to get yourself a fraction of connection? My energy is certainly running out. Time to encourage each other!

So with this more personal share I want to say that it is okay to feel disappointed. I want to say that I care: I do want to know what you are doing, what is on your mind, or what keeps you busy. And I definitely want to encourage you to reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while and just ask something that you would love to know from them! It will bring, also to you, new inspiration and energy.

Hang in there.

Vivian van der Werf

PhD Student, Hermit, Disappointed, Not discouraged.

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