Begin again

2020. I think it will be quite easy to remember that 2020 was the year of the COVID-19 pandemic. 2020, the beginning of a new decade. 2020 was going to be the final year for my PhD and 2021 was going to be a new start for me in terms of my career. Now it’s halfway through 2020 and because of my maternity leave, I probably won’t finish by 2021, which was when I had initially aimed for. What’s more is that now graduates will also be facing the effects of the current global economic and health crisis and I assume the job market will be more competitive.

Most of us PhD students have recently been feeling quite anxious about the uncertain future. So it was very timely to hear about all the stories of overcoming from the recent commencement speeches being delivered virtually in the US graduations. The one delivered by Brené Brown to the University of Texas was a welcome reminder to us students.

Sometimes, even the best laid plans do not come to fruition. Brené is best known for her research on vulnerability – she reminded the graduates that the world does not wait for us, nor does it ready itself for us. Given the tough economic times, choosing courage over comfort will be especially vital. ‘Don’t be afraid to fall’, she said. She described how many times she fell and how the lessons from each fall were the building blocks for her successes. ‘Easy to say’, I whisper to myself as I think about how scary it is, my attempt to continue on with my PhD on top of being a working single mum. ‘How am I going to pull this off’, I say out loud while half listening to the rest of her speech. Then I look at the baby monitor and check to see that my baby daughter is still sleeping soundly. There it is. There she is. She’s the reason why I am going to choose courage over comfort.

It’s scary and the future is uncertain, but I am willing to show up everyday because I want my daughter to learn about resilience. I want her to be able to share both her successes and struggles with me. I want to be able to show her that the world changed in 2020 and it was certainly uncomfortable times for a lot of people, but it’s okay to begin again. There will be really tough working-from-home days, conference presentations that will be delivered over Zoom and I might fumble and stutter, manuscript rejections, and many other ‘falls’, but each day is a chance to begin again. Try again. Try something different. Regroup. Rebuild. Begin again.

The speech ended posing this question, you’re attending a job interview in the future and you’re asked, ‘I see you graduated in 2020 or post-pandemic, that must have been really tough – what did you do?’


Note: If you're feeling concerned about your future and thinking more of your career, you might like to check out some of the available support offered by Career Services here.  

Tagged in phd, coronavirus, working from home, What messes with your head