Talking about the potential PhD (and my real world ethical dilemmas)

So I got lots of congratulations from my family on Boxing Day, in fact everybody was so positive that all my grandmother managed to say about it was to ask me how long it would take. Back at soup van for the first time in ages the other volunteers were also very congratulatory. Having everybody be so positive is making me feel more uncertain.

Being asked about the actual project has shown me that it is still not worked out because I cannot say it in one sentence. I do not want to say it is about poverty, because it is not and I feel bad labeling people I have not even met yet as poor (even if the government programs label them as poor). Perhaps I will start telling people that it is about notions of success and the role of our own and governments’ ideas about the world in shaping our choices.

I feel rather bad about the cost to the rest of society, especially in comparison to the very marginal benefit my research could really bring about. I have no idea what it costs for somebody to do a PhD, but I imagine it is not a small amount of money plus I will be getting a stipend. The cost will also be quite high for other people in my life. I am really at an age where I should be taking some responsibility for being around socially and to help out domestically when it comes to my grandmother who suffers with a lot of arthritis. My friends and partner are not just there to be ornamental or to give feedback on my ideas, it should be a mutually beneficial relationship but I know I will almost certainly go into my own little world.

One of the volunteers on soup van did her confirmation late last year and has since changed her project a bit so she does not have to always work weekends and can do some work from home. She is married and I did not even have to read between the lines to see what a strain the research has been for both her and her husband. She is somebody who is not at all lazy nor time selfish and has always worked long hours, but a PhD is a stretch even for her.

I want to hurry up and settle on a field site. Going interstate appeals to me from a ‘defining the project’ point of view because I can then set an end date and have an excuse for not having any ongoing commitments, it will be easy to see what bits of my life should be contributing to my research and which are my ‘real life’ and it will be more likely that I will ask the right questions about the services rather than assuming that I already know. It also appeals to me personally because I can say to everybody that I am away doing my field work, not just that I am too busy to come/ see you/ speak to you. However, this seems like a bit of a cop out way to choose a field site.

In summary, I guess I am quite selfish. I want to feel like I am making the perfectly ethical decisions but really life is messy. It is up to me to sit with what I need to, work through what I can and change anything unacceptable.


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