PhD purgatory: the medium place between mostly done and fully done

Its been a while since I have treated y’all to an update on my PhD life, and that is because I am somewhat done but also not quite done. (That makes sense, right?)

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You can see the process – the slowly climbing word count (the blue and green lines are total word count and word count excluding references and appendices respectively) as well as the cyclic patterns of addressing comments and getting more comments (yellow line).


Currently, I have 63,000 words dancing across 208 pages, just aching for the chance to get out into the world.

I finished a full draft of my monograph in December (hooray!!), sent it to my supervisors, and immediately flew to Egypt to spend 10 days on a boat in the Rea Sea to luxuriate in the sunshine and hang out with dolphins and turtles (the definition of #dreamlife). This was a beautiful moment of mental reprieve before the final(ish) push. Image result for the good place gif

When I got back to London, I had got comments back from my supervisors, and immediately set about tackling these comments and wrestling them into submission. I was consumed by a “get it done immediately” frenzy for a few weeks, determined to submit by the end of January. I had gone through two rounds of extensive revisions in January, but then I hit pause (as you can see in the deeply nerdy graph above, where I made minimal changes during February).

I started to realise that I have spend 3 years on this project already, and there is no sense rushing the finish – that if I took more time now, I could finesse my manuscript until it is as good as I can get it (and/or I lose my mind). Image result for the good place gif

At the same time, I started my fab post-doc position, as a Senior Research Fellow in Public Mental Health at UCL. This was a huge relief, as I knew I had a great gig once I was done, and it is a really exciting project to boot!Image result for the good place gif

I started working part-time on the project, which was exciting, but also equated to adding another plate to my spinning act.

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But now it is March.

And it turns out that I am in a very strange PhD purgatory place.

I am harbouring a [mostly done] thesis in my desk drawer, which I will take out every now and then to hunt for comma splices and conceptual incongruities. But I can’t submit yet, because of my least favourite spinning plate – waiting for a decision on my visa application.

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As a Canadian, I have been on a Tier 4 student visa for the past 3+ years. On my student visa, I can work part-time, but I will need to have a “real person” (Tier 2) visa to be able to do my post-doc work.

Things were going swimmingly. I got my job offer, visa sponsorship letter from UCL, and had my biometrics appointment squared away in January. I started to work part-time on my post-doc on my student visa.

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As I had no reason to expect a delay on my Tier 2, I was planning to proceed with submission, get my PhD squared away, and start working full-time on my post-doc. However, it has already been 8 weeks since my application has been submitted, and no word from the Home Office.

I fear there is a wee “Brexit-y” wrench in the works. It is possible that my little application has been buried by an avalanche of Brexit-induced applications.

It turns out PhD purgatory may have saved me a huge logistical headache.


You see, I still have 10+ months on my student visa, but this timeline changes if I submit early. Once I submit my thesis, the countdown starts and I only have up to 3 months following my submission to get a new visa or leave the UK. Had I stuck with my original time plan, I would be in a rather sticky situation right now!

While I am so grateful for having avoided the legal and logistical problem of lapsing visa, I am starting to get antsy! It would be really nice to finish off this chapter, prep for my viva, and focus on my new job. It would also be extra nice to get paid full-time again. Oh the luxuries.

So while I wait, I have shifted my attention to periodic editing, part-time post-docing, rubiks cubing, fun unnecessary side projecting, travel planning, and life skill mastering.

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My fingers and toes crossed that I can soon leave this waiting room and proceed to the good place – the Doctor-y place – very soon.

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