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Mid Term Blues?

Last 'weekend' was a university residential for my doctoral work.  I came away feeling demoralised and frustrated and am trying to work out whether this is just normal 'mid term blues' (I am now technically half way through) or something more significant.  I have thought hard before 'going live' with these thoughts because it feels very disloyal to others involved but part of me wants it to be a 'normal' phase and someone to tell me not to dare consider giving up!  I'm pretty unlikely to give up - it's not my style - but I'm currently not wildly enthusiastic about the enterprise.

Part of the difficulty is that this is a new style doctoral programme that doesn't fit any neat boxes.  It gets looked down on by people doing traditional PhD/DPhil as 'not quite a proper doctorate' and by those doing DMin degrees as 'not quite the thing' either.  Having to defend what you are embarked upon is tiring, especially when you have questions about it anyway!  The 'professional doctorate' is meant to bridge the gap between the academy and the professions and ends up being kicked by both!

Another part of the difficulty is that it is a new programme - the university is making it up as it goes along.  It has grown more quickly than anticipated and there aren't enough staff to care for it as well as anyone would wish.  The pioneering 'third year' cohort are not just guinea pigs but now guinea pigs left to get on with it by 'owners' with new cohorts to consider.  It often feels as if no one knows quite what to do with us and there is little new input in what is ostensibly a "taught doctorate."

One of my struggles is that my work is essentially theoretical whilst most people's is empirical interview-based stuff; hence what limited input there is inevitably reflects their needs.  At the same time, I do feel that practical theology (the field I'm involved in) needs some deep theoretical thinking/grounding otherwise it becomes glorified social analysis (as others more qualified than I have observed).  So I get annoyed to find lots of what feels like undergrad levels of reflection being affirmed.  Which is also another of my beefs - there are people who don't really seem to be operating at post grad level at all, and there are people who wouldn't know theology if it bit them.  I'm all for accessibility, but on my bad days actually wonder if this thing is worth the paper it is potentially written on.

Add to all of this the usual (evidently usual) post grad sense of 'I'm stupid and know nothing' and it would be very easy just to give up.

However!  However, I do believe in what I'm doing and I do enjoy it when I get the time to do it.  So maybe this is just a normal bad patch to be endured?  One day, hopefully, I will look back and think it was all worth it.  I will cease to worry if the qualification came out of a cornflake box and know that I have actually done something worthwhile.  In the meantime I'll just have to live with the annoying bits and by my usual stubborn self!

If all else fails English Heritage already put Rev Dr on my membership card (cos they can't cope with Revd as an abbreviation) and I can simply fool myself and some of the people...


  • I can only sympathise. Not that I'm going through mid-term blues I'm coming to the end, nor do I have a professional doctrinal thesis to write. I do feel I have a 'block' to overcome that is both essay writing and blogging, it will pass soon I hope!
    You seem to still have a great creative writing flair, and make everything sound so interesting and amusing, you have a real gift - so let me encourage you not to give up yet.

  • Thanks Lucy, you are a great encourager.

    I am hoping an upcoming plane journey plus a train ride to Bournemouth and back for Baptist Assembly might give me some space to read or write.

  • Of course you shouldn't give up - didn't I already tell you that? Of course you won't give up; that's not who you are.

    But mainly, you certainly shouldn't give up for the reasons you cite because they are not the reasons you're doing it in the first place, are they? You are certainly gaining new insights personally and may well contribute to the overall body of knowledge on your subject. If you get some nice letters on a pretty piece of paper as well, then so much the better.

    And as for the "i'm stupid and know nothing" comment, can I just point out once more the collection of letters you already have? Does someone need to hit you on the head with a large textbook of your choice?

    This is a mid-term crisis and it will pass. Hang in there.

    End of rant, sorry.

  • I wouldn't even dare hit you on the head with a Grove Booklet of your choice... so it's a good job you have friends like Elaine to do it for you!

  • Thanks both. I will consider myself suitably bashed over the head with 'The Baptist Union a Short History' (probably cos that's the best use for it other than propping up wobbly tables! Apologies to Payne.) and 'Gadamer for the Perplexed' (cos I really ought to get round to buying it.)

    I am now pondering the possible content of a Grove booklet on pastoral support for doctoral students!!

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