Most of us doctoral students would agree that music is a vital tool for getting us through our thesis – whether that’s being unable to work without it, using it as inspiration for crucial moments, or even making playlists to listen to whilst doing certain tasks. It can improve our mood whilst slogging through a particularly difficult section of the thesis, it can help us focus and its presence can aid us in blocking out other, more distracting noise. I’m even listening to my Spotify right now as I write this blog!
It is in this vein that my office, during a mid-afternoon slump, hit on the idea of “PhD: The Musical.” It quickly became a game, thinking of songs that particularly describe the PhD experience, for better or for worse! Soon, the office whiteboard had been dedicated to the purpose of formulating the musical set-list. It was nothing more than procrastination, a piece of fun which helped us bond and provided a few light moments throughout the day, until I tweeted a picture of the whiteboard.
Well, it blew up in a way in which we could never have expected (and, for the record, I am no way a Twitter celebrity)! So far, it has been liked eighty-nine times, retweeted thirty-three times and had twenty comments – certainly no Kim Kardashian or Taylor Swift, but not bad for academic Twitter and astronomical for my own personal account!
Other suggestions started flooding in: Survivor by Destiny’s Child, Under Pressure by Queen, The NeverEnding Story, Many of Horror by Biffy Clyro and, on a more positive note, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life from Monty Python! Before we knew it the board was full and, whilst it may have been more of a distraction than we had anticipated, there was definitely a lighter mood in the office. Through making “PhD: The Musical”, we had shared commons themes and feelings of PhD life. Negative feelings involving isolation, lack of funds, a seemingly never-ending workload and imposter syndrome had been shared in a friendly environment through the means of song. In doing so we realised that these feelings were common in the doctoral community, both in Humanities Office C and in the wider universe of the Twittersphere, and that we were not alone. The addition of songs such as With A Little Help from My Friends by The Beatles and Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself by Jess Glynne reminded us to focus on the positives, to not be so harsh with ourselves and that with the support of our loved ones we would get through the process! In effect, our little support network, already established, had been strengthened and solidified and we had a lot of fun along the way.
This blog post has got rather deep rather quickly, but I really do believe that “PhD: The Musical” is evidence of the positives of having a sympathetic and friendly community around you. Studying for a doctorate can be an incredibly isolating process, and we can all agree that support networks and community are important factors in staying sane. Of course, not everybody has the luxury of a sociable and friendly office, or even office space at all, and some people prefer to work at home. This post is not intended to diminish that experience, only to extol the virtues of building support networks, something that can definitely be achieved outside the office environment, whether it’s other PhD students, or friends outside of academia, or family.
And don’t be afraid to procrastinate and have fun! After all, “PhD: The Musical” may need a sequel…
With thanks and credit to the past and present members of Humanities Office C