Hurdle Hurdled (with as it turns out, a smaller hurdle than I thought)

I did indeed survive to write about my first yearly PhD supervisory committee meeting today. I came out roses, actually. Nice.

I’d prepared a summary report a couple of weeks in advance, detailing my current research plan, my accomplishments this year (3 conference papers, 3 published short stories, 1 accepted paper, 2 conferences organized, various training schemes attended, background research conducted, classes taught), my difficulties (*cough* money *cough* resources *cough*), and my plan for next year.

It turns out I’ve exceeded expectations. My committee felt my progress was more than sufficient for a full-time first year, much less a part-time. There was happiness all around.

Mostly the session focused on the elements of the story that I will be building in the next few months, and some resources I should look into to help me think about them, which is always helpful.

We did discuss something that weighed quite heavily on my mind all summer: whether or not I will suspend this year. Last year, I had a full-time contract job until January, which essentially paid for the year. At that time, I imagined I could save the money I earned from that, supplement it with teaching, and struggle through the costs of the remaining years.

Yeah. That didn’t work.

The amount of slave labor, er, teaching I would have to do to pay the fees kind of precludes me doing any actual work on the PhD. Not to mention the uni is trying very hard to cut out part-time instructors and postgraduate teaching assistants.

And the fact that I’d taken on so much teaching in the spring meant I couldn’t look for a job till summer. The search has, so far, been highly unsuccessful. Adding to the difficulties, it turns out my 4-year-old laptop isn’t quite up to the task of the graphic packages and softwares I need to use to build the digital stories. My savings either goes to tuition this year, or it goes to buying the equipment I need to actually do the work.

I stressed about this. I had panic attacks over this. I had to sit out a full afternoon of a training course in a beautiful residential location because I had to self-medicate even to breathe through all the anxiety. That’s when I decided that if no funding or job materialized by September, I would suspend until something came through. After all, next year I should qualify for resident tuition, unless the uni finds a loophole, which wouldn’t surprise me.

This decision really calmed me. Not having to worry about money really calmed me. I despise this. I haven’t been out of a job, or been so unlucky in a job search, since I was 13. I’m living on an allowance right now, people. It’s pathetic.

My committee was really unhappy with the suspension option. I guess it looks bad for everyone. I don’t want to do it, of course. I don’t want to have started this and have the very good chance I won’t be able to finish. But you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip, and you can’t squeeze money from a postgrad. Or from a university, apparently.

I got a letter from a uni mucky-muck after I won a decent AHRC grant for the conference I organized. The first sentence congratulated me. The rest of the letter danced a gay jig about what an awesome place the university is to do research. I kinda wanted to stick the letter in a poop bag, light it on fire, drop it on their doorstep, ring the bell and run away. They’re stoked when I bring money in, but they’ve done nothing to help me out other than lead me on wild goose chases about possible funding.

Anyway, enough bitter rant.

The committee meeting went well, I’m progressing well, and assuming pound coins rain from the sky sometime in the next six weeks, I’ll be able to continue. It rains enough crap here – it can rain a little cash for me.

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