And now for something completely different.

Let’s jump ahead to that (seemingly impossible) point in the future where you’ve spent enough time working on THE graph as well as many other graphs and words, which have themselves come from what feels like millions of experiments. You’ve not slept a full night’s sleep in months, have questionable hygiene (you might smell of cheese but you aren’t actually sure) and you think a balanced diet is one that contains enough sugar and caffeine to outrun aforementioned lack of sleep. You feel like you are running the world’s longest marathon race and then, all of a sudden, it is over. The thesis is in, the viva is over and you’ve crossed the line. Now what?

The answer, believe it or not, is that you run far FAR away for an extremely foreign concept called ‘Holidays’. Specifically post-PhD holidays. Before you start laughing hysterically at me, take a second to think about what you are currently undertaking. You are dedicating years of your life exploring an area of science you love but in the process you will have to turn down many opportunities for fun and frolics – limited time and limited budget will mean that you don’t have the same freedom that your friend who has a permanent contract in a well-paid job has. It can be tough to watch them unlock life achievements whilst you feel like you are being left behind.

The fact is that you’ll spend many years slogging away on your PhD only to then sprint straight into slogging away in the workforce. We all have to do it, but the danger is that you forget this enormous life achievement you have unlocked by jumping from one hamster wheel straight into the next hamster wheel. Don’t do this to yourself. Revel in the glitter and trumpets and streamers.

Before going any further, I need to clarify something and I want this to be CRYSTAL CLEAR. PhD students don’t get paid much (if at all), so it is not going to be an immediate possibility for all. I also absolutely understand that money runs out towards the end – I too lived on cereal for a month. It is sadly far too frequent for PhD students and I empathise. However, this holiday doesn’t have to happen immediately and it doesn’t have to be super exotic. It just needs to be some headspace between the finishing PhD and starting work (and it can even be during finishing PhD or starting work) where you reflect on this massive thing you have achieved. Whether after your submission, after your viva or after your graduation, take some time to remember how awesome you are.

You have:

  • Conquered an enormous amount of reading, writing, learning and experimenting
  • Contributed novel scientific knowledge to the world
  • Proved yourself to be an expert in your field
  • Survived all of the above!

All of which you should be very proud of. Don’t forget to celebrate this.

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