No eating near the portfolios! Handing in the baby

Our guest writer, Emily Brookes, is a soon-to-be-vivaed final year trainee counselling psychologist. Do feel free to check out our website for details of our clinical supervision register and our research support services!


handing_over_baby_smallMy proof reader really has done an excellent job. She’s changed things I wouldn’t even have thought of and as I read through her amendments I feel this sort of lovely distance from my narrative. I’m an observer yet deeply engaged with the text. It’s the same feeling I get when I do my final edit. I become submerged in the story of my research and instead of seeing words on a page, watch a film play in my head. It’s a marvellous experience.

Final formatting is not so enjoyable. Sodding Word! If I make even minor changes to something the tables in my document jump out of place. It takes me ages to put them back and when I do it turns out my page numbers have changed. Then I have to re-do my contents. Breathe, just breathe.

My study buddy, R, is having the same problem. We’ve developed a mantra – “it’s only minor amendments” which we use to soothe ourselves and mostly ignore the issues. The day before printing R rings me in a panic. She’s been on the phone to Staples who have quoted her over £200 to print two copies of her portfolio. Having just spent approximately £25,000 on the actual doctorate and considerably more if one counts personal therapy, travel expenses, membership to BPS, working for free, late fees at the library etc, this is definitely not happening. Eventually we go to the local church centre and get them done in black and white for about £20 each. (Colour bits are done on R’s home printer). Mini-win.

The thing is, in doing it this way we then have to check whether all the pages are in the correct order. It’s excruciating. I go to touch the first page but back off quickly, best go wash my hands, we don’t want smudges. I’m also really hungry (printed over my usual lunch-time) but there’s no way I’m having a bagel now and risking getting butter all over it. As well as page order I’m checking the formatting, and doing so whilst trying to ignore the content. There is no time (or energy) available to change anything major now so I’d rather just not see it. Ignorance is bliss.

R and I drag ourselves into Staples for binding (priced reasonably, unlike the printing). My hair is greasy and I’ve consumed nothing but coffee. The assistant gives us a compassionate and knowing smile yet R looks visibly distressed. She’s been making regular visits to the branch and secretly researching the staff. “We want Kate” she mouthes to me in a frazzled whisper from behind her hand. “She’s worked here for over 12 years”.

In my opinion binding is quite exciting. One can tell I’ve been a hermit for the past six months. It looks so posh with a card back and a cellophane cover. A teacher of mine once said to me “you can’t polish poop”. Well, if this were possible, Staples’ binding would do it. I want to open it again so badly but I resist. I don’t think I could handle finding a typo.

Travelling to Uni, R and I joke about our Portfolios, calling them “the babies”. Thankfully it’s not raining. We carry them wrapped in plastic bags, in a cardboard box. I’m quite convinced that a small bit of crumpling wouldn’t render major changes but let’s not tempt fate. I’m also starting to regret the “minor amendments” mantra.

As I hand my baby over to the admin staff I feel strange. I expected a wash of elation, hysteria perhaps, but actually I feel somewhat lost. Leaving the office I get that missing feeling like I’ve left something behind, and I keep looking over to see if R is carrying the theses box. For the next few days I still wake at night with text running through my head. The grip of anxiety continues to shake me in the morning, urging me to stop wasting time on non-essential sleep. What is this?! Just enjoy your freedom woman!

Interestingly I start to feel happier when I begin job-searching. It seems I can only feel comfortable if I have a picture in my head of what my future is going to look like. Ironic really since my thesis is about mindfulness!

Perhaps I need therapy.

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