Last Friday I attended the MERC conference at Monash University. This was a day to celebrate research to share ‘insights thoughts and practices’. The week leading up to the day I spent tossing up whether to attend at all – could I afford the time? Did I want to spend the day listening to how successful others have been in their journey? Did I want to hear again that a PhD is a rewarding and wonderful learning experience? But then the day came and I felt excited to go, so I went.
I’m glad I did.
The MERC team did a great job of organising the conference. I learned a lot. I met some great people and was able to chat to others I’d seen and heard speak in other forums. I was even inspired.
The day began with the keynote speaker, Associate Professor Lucas Walsh; I used his message as my title for this blog. He spoke about how the process of becoming changes us and that we should enjoy it. Walsh described the journey using a theme park as metaphor.
The main aim of going to a theme park is to have fun. One has a plan for what to do while there; go on this ride, eat this food, play this game, and see that show. We encounter signposts that help lead us in different directions. We try new things and once the day is over we meet up with friends and family to share our adventures and plan the next. Have a plan; remain focused but open to new ideas, said Walsh.
The process of becoming…
This message remained with me all day as I moved from room to room to listen to the presentations by fellow PhD students. Each presenter had 30 mins or so to discuss their research and take questions. I heard from researchers of self-management interventions, spirituality, use of guided questions, teaching practicums, young men’s access to universities, task based language teaching (TBLT), mindfulness intervention, and the last, and most animated of the day for me, on arts based research.
In these sessions the process of becoming was very evident, not just for the presenters but for me personally.
The afternoon panel session featured stories from the field by five academics. I listened with interest as they spoke about their journeys and experiences in becoming… I heard that it’s okay to have doubts. I certainly have many in relation to my PhD journey to date. This was one of the reasons I attended the conference – to see if I was on the right track. I wanted to be able to analyse if what I am doing has purpose. Is what I’m doing important enough to spend such time and effort? I was happy to share my ideas about the research and received some positive feedback. But still there are doubts. Am I good enough and determined enough to pull it off? I’m not one to give up, as many who know me will attest, but I find myself grappling with these thoughts every day.
There was lots of talk about life balance at the conference and at this moment I’m not sure mine is balanced.
Am I spending enough time on my PhD?
Am I giving my consultancy work enough attention?
Am I putting enough into my current leadership position in school?
Am I giving enough to my family and friends?
Do I have enough time for me?
Am I trying to do too much? (Don’t answer that – I know what you’re going to say!)
Can this be measured?
My favourite quote from the conference came from Dr Marc Pruyn who said,
“Do what you want to do, on purpose.”
I think I’ll do exactly that. It is the purpose of becoming…