I was both lucky and unlucky in my PhD in that I was passionate about it. All told I’ve been looking at the area or at least thinking about it for nearly 10 years all told-since my Undergraduate dissertation. And my topic was something (I at least) felt like there was a real reason to get behind.
For those unfamiliar I looked at HIV/AIDS in theatre. A bit more on all that there: Everybody Has AIDS And it was a real passion project. And I genuinely think that as PhDs go you need to be enthusiastic about it, but the very best ones (not academically but in terms of what you get out of them) are those that the student is passionate about. So check and check. I came out the other side wondering if I would still be quite as passionate, and it turns out that I am. But is this a good thing any more?
My problem at this point is after years of shouting to get heard in academia, getting someone, anyone to recognise that this was important work that needed to be done, I’m still shouting but with no direction.
I have all this knowledge, this passion this store of work and nothing to do with it. I guess that this is a problem for lots of PhDs but I don’t mean that I want to put it into a book or a journal or speak at a conference (but I suppose I could do those things) I mean I want to DO something. But I don’t know how to channel this work into something useful.
For me it became more and more obvious that it isn’t the academic work I’m passionate about, it’s the work itself. Its HIV/AIDS theatre, it’s theatre activism, it’s HIV/AIDS activism. I happen to have chosen a very particular way to become knowledgeable about it. But now I have no outlet for that activism, and I feel like I’m shouting into a void.
I’ve been running in circles for a while wondering where the hell to go next or what to do with all this. Last week I teamed up with a theatre company who are performing a production of ‘The Normal Heart’ and it has been great, to get my head in that space again. And it’s been great to feel like that work can be put to some use.
But I still feel like I’m chasing my tail. That nobody out there wants to listen to just how important these plays are, I feel like I’ll scare the poor actors if I show them just how much I know, or keep plying them with stories about how important this kind of work is.
In the same way in everyday life I want to share news stories, take to social media and rant (more so than I do now?) because there’s still so much to say and do. But how do I channel all this knowledge and energy into something tangible and useful? and how do I make it feel like it wasn’t all a terrible waste?
It’s a dual issue I’m dealing with. On one hand the idea that nobody on earth cares as much about a PhD topic as you do (that’s almost the definition of the damn PhD) but that also I chose a topic because I was passionate about nobody caring about it…and still nobody does.