If I don’t finish my PhD, would you still be my friend?

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!

4 Comments

  1. What a silly question – of course we’d be your friends :)

    I do agree that students get some good rates for conferences and for professional memberships (this year I joined AERA for the first time and I did it as a student because it was so darn cheap comparatively!). Having (almost) been a career student I never took advantage of student rates for things until a few months ago as I was completing my first year at AU. I’ve met many people, you included, before I even began my doctoral journey, so in my book the doctorate doesn’t (at least as a simple credential) is not the main thing that makes connections. I think it can open doors (by way of advisors making introductions and student rates to attend events), but it is really the personality and the inquisitiveness of the individual PhD student that really helps make those social bonds. At least since 2011 (mobimooc) you seem like a good networker, a curious learner, and someone who is a pleasure to work with – all traits that 3 little letters cannot take away.

    Some snobs may look down upon those who aren’t endowed with those 3 letters, but those people are snobs and will find other things to look down upon you for. Not worth interacting with them as far as I am concerned. There are way too many good people out there to waster your time with those :-). I also know people with a PhD (or other doctorate) who constantly make me roll my eyes, but I’ve met non-doctors in MOOCs like rhizo that are more intelligent.

    At the end of the day – at least for me – the doctorate is an accomplishment like a badge or an an xbox achievement. You learn some things along the way, but they don’t define you. You are solely responsible for that :)

  2. You have already made those connections so you won’t lose them if you don’t do the PhD.
    I would not use that as a reason to do a PhD. And you have seen that many ppl continue to learn and connect without institutional affiliations and i think you are at a stage where ppl value you in your own right as a person who is worth knowing and working with.
    That said, you may want to do the PhD FOR YOURSELF. If you feel you are a researcher, scholar, academic, it opens up doors but is still not necessary. This needs a longer convo tho

  3. As an interesting and engaged person I don’t think the PhD would change YOU. Plus the idea of qualifications seems to be changing where interest and reliability are count too. Maye it’s not just the paper but the approach to life and the worry is in the determination slipping away from you? If it feels like you’d be losing access to people you value think about what you offer to them and maybe your academic status won’t be the key aspect.
    And maybe you need something that’s post-cancer? Closer to who you are now?

    Being very sick made me feel weak, out-of-control and especially, unworthy. I’m fed up with people’s “help” doing things for me because they don’t have the time to wait for my chemo cooked brain to get to it. It may not be nice but help is becoming to feel like things are being taken away. One less expectation to meet. One less thing I can DO. Less credibility is a good way to describe the feeling.

    How do you feel about the PhD as a personal challenge? Is that a major value?

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