‘So what exactly isit you’re doing again?’
‘Um, research. I’m a researcher.’
‘Oh, that was it, research. When does it finish, this summer?’
‘No Nan, I’ve got another two and a half years to go.’
‘Oh. And then you’ll get a job?’
‘I… well, I’ve got a job really Nan. They pay me, it’s like having a three year contract.’
‘Hmm. Your mum said you were going to be a doctor?’
‘Yes, at the end of it I’ll have a PhD, which means I’m a Dr.’
‘But why did you spend all those years studying English just to go into medicine?!’
Even if your Nan isn’t quite as spectacular as mine, most PhD students encounter this in one form or another. Friends, family and acquaintances who just don’t quite get what you’re up to and, to be frank, don’t really care. On the one hand it’s quite funny, and most PhD students have an acute sense of how esoteric their work is. In fact, that’s one of the reasons Hive socials are so great: we can sit around talking about our tiny, detailed topic to people who know what it’s like for no-one to have a clue about your tiny, detailed topic!
Most of all, how much harder does it make maintaining that devilish work-life balance when people think you’re free whenever for a chat or a visit because you don’t have set working hours? How do you explain that often you’re a lot more busy than someone with a full-time job, not less?
So I’m resolving on some Research Pride. I’m going to talk about my research enthusiastically and in detail when people ask me, and assume that if they’ve asked, they’re interested. I’m going to explain what I do day to day to my friends and family, and tell them about new exciting stuff I find so they’re not stuck with my two-sentence sound-bite. Rather than bewailing everyone just not getting it, I’m going to try and make them get it.