Why? – Existential crisis, PhD or time to be happy!

How many times have I asked myself: Why? Why  am I doing a PhD? Why have I embarked on this journey of constant challenges? Why have I allowed MS Word and printed papers to become such a big part of my life? Why?

I am sure I am not the only doctoral researcher who asked this question at some stage during the PhD. And this is normal…in fact this is great! We should ask this question more often to try to gain better understanding of what we do and the world we live in…

I was thinking a lot about the answer to this questions. And my answer to this question is simpler than I thought. I do it….to be happy!!! Do you remember that feeling of happiness when you learnt that you were accepted for a PhD programme? How happy did you feel when you shared your experiences with other PhD students? Or when your first conference paper was accepted?.. I felt happy yesterday when I was presenting some of the results of my research at an ESCalate seminar. Yes, I felt happy and grateful that I could just share my experience, my vision, the results of my work with others. I felt grateful that there were PhD supervisors in the audience who listened to my perceptions as a PhD student. And you never know, it might have influenced their vision of a supervision process…at least a bit. And it means it might potentially change the life of other PhD students who are working with these supervisors. Yes…bigger picture…there is always a bigger picture behind your small limited piece of research…you just need to learn to see it. So why are we avoiding happiness? It’s time to take all opportunities and make decisions, to do our best and give the best to the world, time to be happy…

I’ve recently been through a PhD/existential crisis myself, time when you question everything and feel lost…And this was the time when one wise person told me: You are where you are for a reason! You are given an opportunity! Benefit from it!

If you feel depressed, trapped and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. Remember, we are where we are for a reason! We are here to challenge ourselves, to change ourselves and the world, to learn, to share and care through our research…

Let’s be grateful for this, for this life changing opportunity!


About elenaphd

I am a PhD fellow at Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland. In my research project I am looking at employability of social science doctoral researchers.
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15 Responses to Why? – Existential crisis, PhD or time to be happy!

  1. Ben says:

    I just discovered your blog through a re-tweet. It looks great, can’t wait to have a read through and see what you have to say in the future. The exsitential crisis is tough alright. I like your positive attitude and out look, it’s very true, PhD positions are not easy to find so we are all privileged and lucky.

    Good luck with the rest of your PhD

  2. protoscholar says:

    Hold on to this feeling. Many times during my dissertation-writing process I asked the question Why and toward the end the only reason I could come up with was that I had already come this far and was too stubborn to quit. I finished and was awarded my PhD but it would have been a much easier process had I had an outlook like this.

  3. Donna says:

    Your educational journey is helpful. I’m on the same journey. I will also follow you on Twitter :~)

  4. hello, i’ve put your link to my blog, and i hope you dont mind about it. I’d love to read more about your journey! best wishes to us who are in the same pursuit 😉

  5. Dr_in_the_making says:

    Great…I don’t feel so alone :)….I am preparing to write my comprehensive exams but I really don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel…Err…Does it get better after the comprehensive exams????

  6. Ragad says:

    Hi Elena,
    I really would like to thank you for this lovely article ..
    I am living this down emotions these days and try to suffer it.
    It becomes harder and harder to an overseas student who left her family, her new life with her husband and to miss seeing her lovely niece and nephew growing up 😦
    All these things came to my head last night .. I feel so depressed and I left to bed early cause I dont wanna to thing of anything more .. one thing was in my head .. shall I drop my Phd research and am in the 3rd year !! how can I live 2 more years with the same situation of depressing ..
    Till I woke up today morning .. pray to God to lead me to the wise choice.
    I came to the office this morning and I found one of my friend shares your article on her facebook wall …
    I felt like God wants me to read yours words as an answer to my last night question …..

    Thanks Elena .. so much 🙂

    • elenaphd says:

      Hi, Ragad! I am so happy that you found some help from my blog post. This was the initial aim of my blog – to share experiences that my help others. When I am feeling down, I also like listening to this speech again and again http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gO6cFMRqXqU&feature=related I really love the part when he says that you can only connect the dots looking backwards when you’ve already been through some experience. Only then you can make sense why you’ve done it and how it influenced your life. Hold on there! Follow your dreams and good luck on your journey:)

  7. AJITH says:

    Hey nice blog, i am Ph.D., computer science

  8. Flux Flux says:

    Thanks for your blog. It is really nice to hear Steve Jobs say that dropping school has been his best decision. I know this blog is to cheer each other up throughout the difficulties of a PhD. But honestly, I have never heard a person say a positive story of a PhD not even professors.
    I JUST GOT TOO MANY DAYS SAYING I WISH I HAD A DIFFERENT LIFE because this PhD life feel like a big rock tide to my back.
    We are going to die one day. And as someone that volunteers with older adults I tell you your body does not forget you will pay for every depression, sadness, sleepless, stress, anxiety, frustration etc. Ok you could have that in any lifestyle but seriously a PhD is just a construction based on frustrating new generations. And I will like to live a life that I am happy and proud to live. Also close to my family, partner, friends and support group. My printer and computer are not my family and friends. Elena your life and emotional stability goes first because your life is not school is out there. And even is we “survive” there will be less jobs for everyone in the academia. And I don;t want to “survive” my life I want to love my life… or at least not feel this anxiety attacks.

    all the best,

  9. 4th year never ending phd says:

    Hi, thanks for this post! I am currently going through existential crisis and thinking about quitting every second. Your post made me rethink everything from the beginning…

    • elenaphd says:

      Hi!!! I am so happy that my post managed to help you. I am struggling myself at the moment but quitting won’t solve the problem I guess since it will be followed by periods of regrets and further rethinking. So let’s keep on fighting 🙂 Good luck and remember: you are not alone 🙂

  10. Yeah thinking on quitting too... says:

    I’m on the same boat. My issue is that I have already heard much advice like yours, from friends, family, counsellors, therapists and i still don’t manage to feel better. THen everytime I try to write or read or do anything about my thesis I just panic. I feel like I’ve lost my self, I don’t even see myself into academia anymore!

  11. William W. says:

    This is a lovely entry indeed, Elena! Hope you could find more time now to write and make this space more profitable for all of us out here…

  12. Elen says:

    Aah thank you for this! Currently in the middle of a PhD (first year) crisis feeling pretty lost and waiting for a response from my tutor! I keep thinking about all the things I have to do and getting overwhelmed and not sure where to start. Trying to stay positive and remember it’ll be sorted out once I have a talk with my supervisor.
    Your post was really helpful as a little reminder of why I got into this in the first place! Thanks x

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