Whirlwind week


It has been a crazy week. I had a PhD meeting with my supervisors on Wednesday, in which I was told my recent work constituted material for potentially 2 papers, that my work was progressing at a phenomenal rate and that once these 2 papers are done I will have broken the back of the thesis. WOW. I then got talking with a modelling officer at a coffee break who offered to help me get some code running on the parallel computing facilities. Then on top of all this, I think I may have successfully re-written the simulation algorithm I’ve been using and it now produces 100,000 events in about 10 minutes, as compared to 6 hours! I am running comparison tests to ensure that it is producing statistically similar results, but I’m quite optimistic about it. This will all hopefully mean I can forge ahead with analyses relatively unhindered by heavy computations.

The meeting was my most successful thus far. I am at the happy stage of work where I am so familiar with all or most of the relevant concepts and am so far into it that I can converse about it with relative ease. I felt like weeping with relief upon hearing that my output is now of PhD quality – the output of my ideas and my investigations. I’ve been lucky to have discovered some things that could only be found by poking around in the data, trying things out.

The meeting established for all of us what stage I am at. The funny thing is, while my response to this information goes something like, “At last! I’m achieving something!”, theirs seems to be more like, “Already?!” It turns out the thesis is supposed to be about 3 papers’ worth of work. So to be apparently well on the way to 2 of those at the start of year 2 is to be doing pretty well for time. It now seems as if I have been labouring under much-too-high expectations of myself.

This has spurred me on to continue more boldly. There are still things I want to understand, puzzles I want to get to the bottom of. If it takes me longer or is more challenging than I would like, I will have to remember that I can afford to adjust my expectations, and go easy on myself. That is the biggest challenge of all.

They have always spoken positively about me, and as I’ve said before, I’ve generally taken it with a pinch of salt. (Not sure why, when I know they are honest people.) But I can’t realistically disbelieve this, because they wouldn’t joke around or be flippant about the thesis and what should go into it. Still, it doesn’t seem real, and I can still envisage all these interesting results crumbling and disintegrating when I start to dig a bit deeper!

While I have certainly been on cloud 9 this week, it has occurred to me that I still haven’t learnt the concept of balance. My view of myself is still diverging into one or other extreme – severe incompetence, or brilliance. This feedback was wonderful but perhaps it’s just feeding that part of me that needs to be outstanding just to feel acceptable. The problem with that is that there is room for me to think, “What if I just got lucky this time? What if I can’t continue to deliver at this level?” and to think that anything less than this will render me unemployable (a not entirely unfounded belief).

I’m not sure whether I should concentrate on believing I really am very capable, or on not minding whether I am or not.


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