One of the biggest benefits I’ve had to being a PhD student is that I’ve been able to connect with truly amazing people. Many of these connections have gone beyond academic collegiality, to what I would consider true friendships. When I look at how I want to be spending my time, one of the things I love doing is collaborating with so many distant yet close colleagues/friends. When I think about moving my career in a different direction, I find myself wondering if these friendships are somehow dependent on me being a PhD student. The friendships happened because of the work I’ve been doing during my PhD – however, this work, for the most part, hasn’t been my PhD work.
One of the decisions that I’ve almost made (not 100% certain yet, will give it until after my vacation) is to put my PhD on hold for another year. According to the SSHRC guidelines, I can keep my scholarship on hold (medical leave) for up to three years. After discussing my current project with my committee and the program director, I was left feeling a little overwhelmed. I had hoped that I could just write for 8-months, but that isn’t how things turned out. I need more data, and the project I was working on has pretty much died. I could attempt to resuscitate it, but that may or may not be successful. I could go through great efforts and end up exactly where I am now. But more, I realized that I wasn’t ready to do that work. I’m not ready for the serious time commitment that would be needed to revive/restart my PhD – at least not right now. I need more time.
One of the things that is weighing heavy on my mind is that I am connected and in this privileged place because of my status as a PhD Student. Being a student affords me the opportunity to attend conferences at a much reduced rate (most of the time anyways). It gives me some sense of credibility – an organization to place as my affiliation.
If I were not a PhD student, would we still have connected? Would you still be my friend if I decide not to continue along the academic path? It is the loss of friendships and connections that concern me more than any future job prospects. I know that completing a PhD will provide very little help in the way of finding meaningful work – especially because I really like being self-employed. I don’t need a PhD to do that!