I got funding to do a PhD!!!!!!
Okay, first of all, it’s not actually my topic I got funded for. It’s the set topic one I applied for. I now know I have a secure position for the next three years with a salary and an office on campus. Yes, it would be amazing to research my own topic but it’s not a perfect world so I’ll go with what I’m given. Saying that, if at some point between now and September I get offered the money to do my own topic, I will be jumping ship!
Secondly, I have inadvertently started my own business, face painting. Random. The last few years I’ve been coerced into painting the odd child’s face at my church’s summer fete. This year I got organised and bought a little painting set with a book of designs. The fete went really well and I helped to raise a little bit of money but what was most remarkable was that I was asked to do a birthday party the following weekend. As a student who just seems to be getting poorer and poorer these days I jumped at the chance and so, I am now a professional face painter.
Which leads me onto my third ‘P’: pirating.
My first ‘gig’ as a face painter was a 7 year old’s birthday party in a seaside town a few miles from where I live. The weather has been absolutely scorching over here the last week and so I arrived in a cute flowery summer dress with some little flowers painted on my own face (one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do) at this gigantic house with a back garden so big it had its own lake. I was directed to a picnic table and I set up shop. I had a steady stream of kids and it wasn’t a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon in the sun. When a lull came in my queue for painting, I noticed for the first time that there was a photographer. He was darting around the kids as they played and posed on the various bouncy castles, trampoline, swing set, paddling pools (it really was a huge garden). None of the adults were even speaking to me, the woman who had booked me for the party had left half an hour after it started. When Mr Photographer came over to my table I asked him if he wanted to be a pirate.
An hour later, I packed up my stuff and left the party with Mr Photographer’s number and business card.
I’m still not entirely sure how I pulled that one off. Yeah, he was kind of cute and I did enjoy talking to someone over the age of 8. At one point, after I helped a little girl up onto the trampoline, we were standing chatting. He had been booked by the grandad and ran a photography studio in the town. I explained that I was a postgrad student just earning some extra pocket-money. He was very interested that I was booked through my church fete because he’s a Christian too. He then said we would have to keep in touch and he might be able to help me get more gigs at different events he’s doing throughout the summer.
When my friends in church asked me how my first job went and I told them about Mr Photographer, one found it hilarious that I managed to ‘pull’ by asking a guy if he wanted to be a pirate.
For the last few years it has become my dream to do a PhD in History. Yes, possibly the geekiest dream imaginable. But there it is.
The Masters course I am currently on is a stepping-stone to the PhD and what a slippery stone it has been. I love history, its the one thing that can distract me from all the crap going on in the world. All I need is a good history book and a cup of coffee and I can keep myself occupied for hours. But this Masters course has been a constant struggle. Shockingly so. The main reason why I dislike it so much is that we don’t get to do any real history. Now that we’re near the end of second semester the history is starting to peek out timidly from behind the overbearing ogres of modules like Historiography and the beast that is Research Methods. Personally, I think the awfulness of these first semester modules was to sort the men from the boys, like some bizarre geeky test of stamina. If you can survive the pain and tediousness of those modules, then we’ll let you actually study some history. As a separation method, it pains me to say, it works extremely well. My class now stands at half what it was in September, the majority of those left are US students who have no choice but to stick it out. Me? Well, I won a scholarship to pay for my tuition fees so as its being paid for me, I thought it best to grit my teeth and keep going. Plus, the Masters for me was only the first stage of my gradual evolution to becoming a fully-fledged historian.
I wasn’t always this geeky. When I left school I wanted to be an English teacher. I had a plan to study English and History and then do my teaching qualification. Not even a woeful A Level English teacher could deter me from the plan. My first year of uni went pretty much as expected, I joined every society I had an interest in, I met new people and I continued with my reputation for being a good student. In school I had always been a straight A student, good at everything (except PE and Technology which, thank goodness, I dropped after third form) but not exceptionally brilliant. At the end of my first year at uni, I won a prize for my performance in history and suddenly I was the best at something. I loved my history courses, they were so interesting and stimulating that it didn’t seem like a lot of effort to read ridiculous amounts of material for each class. But even this newly-discovered passion didn’t change my plan. I continued on with English, even though every class was crushing my soul a little bit more each week, every reading was like torture. At the end of second year, realising a little too late, I knew I couldn’t continue studying English anymore.
Changing my degree was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made. It meant studying for an extra semester and accumulating even more of a student debt but I just knew I belonged in history. I understood things the other students didn’t even care about, I found myself becoming friends with lecturers rather than with my peers and even daring to dream about what I might one day contribute to the field.
And now, I sit nervously refreshing my emails, waiting to hear if I’ve been given funding for my PhD. I applied a few weeks ago and was accepted soon after so I know that there is a place with my name on it come September but getting funding would be perfect. It would mean that I wouldn’t have to work to support myself, I’d actually be getting paid to do something I love! All I know is that the decision was made on Friday and applicants are being told this week if they’re successful or not. My stomach is squirming with nerves. Yet all I can do is wait.