The pros and cons of not having a desk, and other reflections on the mundane start to my research traineeship

I have technically started my PhD. I do not really feel like I have started because I do not feel the slightest bit stressed.

There is not a desk for me at the moment in the school, and while I was disappointed at first I think not having a desk is starting to grow on me. I do feel rather guilty when people find out that ‘I am staying home today’, but I better get over it as this is my primary occupation now. The work I am doing at the moment is a bit dull at times, but I am enjoying it and to be honest it is not any different to how I spent my days off over summer. It is easy to spend time being unproductive. For example I am now writing this blog post and earlier I wrote a complaint email to Arnotts about the misleading labeling of their products. On the other side, I can also be productive without worrying about social niceties, even if that means I am slurping my tea or sitting balled up with my feet on my chair. I do not think I would mind so much not having a home base at uni if only Melbourne University was not so full of people at this time of semester. Trying to fit somewhere suitable to sit, inside or out, in the middle of the day is a time wasting challenge. It is nice not being tied down to one spot, but it is also a bit of an isolating experience.

I feel so supported by my supervisor at the moment. It is such a relief to spend my time before a meeting thinking about questions I have, rather than trying to devise strategies that will maximize my chances of even seeing my supervisor (such as pre-empting what side of the building the supervisor would most likely be having a cigarette on this time of day and emptying out the rest of my schedule for the day to allow more waiting time or for it to be rescheduled). It makes me feel a foot taller to have a supervisor who remembers what my project is about. It saves me so much time to have a supervisor who gives specific names as suggestions rather than leaving me to go on hunts for a body of work ‘which had something to do with crystals and the guy’s name started with a ‘C’… or maybe a ‘S”. Finally, I love that the suggestions I am given actually have some connection to the topic with which my project is concerned.

I would now move on to the ideas that I am exploring at the moment, but they are not particularly exciting yet. I have been reading work from the intersection of urban planning and social theory, with a special focus on gentrification. When I was in the library yesterday I was looking down on a crew doing some concrete pours for a new multi-story building. Watching the men in the fluro-yellow or fluro-orange t-shirts and gum-boots wading in the wet concrete I felt a bit guilty that I have this opportunity to wade through and explore ideas and even more guilty that I am looking for ways out of going through the repetitious parts.


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