I officially registered for my PhD today and I’m at once thrilled and terrified. I’m excited about the work I’m doing and somewhat daunted by the long road ahead. I honestly never thought I would be able to do something like this – not rich enough, not clever enough, not creative enough, just plain not enough, I suppose. When you don’t come from an academic background, those opportunities appear to be for other people and it’s taken a lot for me to overcome that assumption and even get as far as day one.
I know that it’s not going to be easy, and that I’ll have many obstacles along the way. One of the few things in my favour is that I seem to thrive in that environment. It’s not a skill I wish to have, I’d rather be one of those luckier people who breeze through life but I’m not. It is something, at least, to know that when all else fails, my resolve never will.
When I started writing, I wanted to see what I could do if I really tried. It’s a scary thing; if you never try, you can always imagine the potential you might have had if it hadn’t been for a career, family or life getting in the way. Once you start, at any point you could realise that perhaps this isn’t the path you’re meant to travel, that your talent exists only in your own imagination.
At every point in my development – first an Open University course, then some Arvon courses, and most recently an MA, I’ve been waiting for someone to tell me I don’t belong there. No one has yet, so while I may have to fight off that imposter syndrome in my own mind, the truth is that I’m doing OK. I work hard at my writing and while I’m writing, I believe in it. This wavers after each rejection, then I take a deep breath and resubmit my work elsewhere. My belief in myself may be fragile, but that’s all the more reason for me to protect it so fiercely.
So here I go, about to start a course of study that’s going to take me to some dark places, creatively and mentally. I’m confident there will also be many moments of light because there always is. I was saddened today to hear of the loss of Tom Petty, but grateful that it prompted me to rediscover his music. One song in particular has reminded me who I am and that whatever challenges may lie ahead for me as a student, I won’t back down.