I’ve been officially enrolled in my PhD for six weeks now. As might be expected, the very first flush of enthusiasm has waned and the reality of life as a PhD student, intent upon finishing on time, has set in. This realisation was precipitated by the beginning of the teaching semester, which started a couple of weeks ago. While my friends and colleagues were preparing for their classes, it occurred to me that my days of work ahead would not be punctuated by writing and delivering lectures, planning tutorials, consulting with students and marking assessment. For the past few years, to varying degrees, all of these teaching related activities have structured my existence. I have, effectively, had my timetable set by the availability of lecture and tutorial rooms at the various institutions where I’ve worked. Now, without any classes to attend as either a student or a teacher, I became aware that I would have to keep myself on schedule. My first reaction was, ‘This is weird, I’ll have to start writing myself to-do-lists’. Then I felt slightly adrift, a state that was helped by 3,630 results that were returned from an Australian & New Zealand Reference Centre search I did on the terms ‘quality’ and ‘television’. New Zealand papers have a lot to say about the quality, or lack thereof, of television in all its guises; as does the Illawarra Mercury. I spent half a day thinking, ‘I’ll never get through all these articles’ and ‘I don’t even want to know about New Zealand newspapers. How do I get rid of them? Who cares about the quality of the soccer/rugby/cricket/etc game that was televised? ’. Then I remembered that I actually do know how to use databases and I could get what I wanted from searching a selection of major Australian newspapers, so I began to reap fewer and more useful results. Now, if you care to be bored, I can talk endlessly about quality journalism and current affairs, quality children’s television, the CD quality sound and DVD quality pictures of digital television technology, and, finally, quality television drama, in which case you may choose from an additional menu: tele-plays, mini-series, series and serials.
While I was cast upon the sea-without-scheduled-ports, I also began to doubt my decision to leave a month between meetings with my supervisor. The search into ‘quality television’ had been instigated by a somewhat confused perusal of television schedules, where I’d had no idea in what category to place any programme, or indeed even what the exact distinctions between categories (genres/formats) were. I know there are problems with using ‘quality’ that I will never solve, but since it’s a term that’s used so widely in discussions about what’s worth watching on television, as a concept, it’s affective. Just tonight, while Kerry O’Brien was interviewing the Communications Minister Helen Coonan about new media ownership legislation and the decline in the ABC’s production of drama, he asked her how she proposed to enable the ABC to produce ‘quality’ drama without a significant increase in funding. Anyway, amid the confusion of the microfilm and photocopied television schedules, I thought, ‘I really need to rearticulate my purpose here, preferably with my supervisor’s wisdom on hand’. I felt better after I’d confirmed a meeting with him around the time I’d proposed at our last appointment. Somehow, having a firm date in my diary helped focus my work plan. We had that meeting on Friday, and again things seem clearer—I have assigned myself tasks to do—but I did ask for our next meeting to be in three weeks time.
The other observation I have about my new unscheduled existence is that my workday is adjusting to my body clock, which has never really liked getting up with kookaburras. My start time has become progressively later. On the one hand I worry about this, it seems to signify a loss of control and a lack of commitment to a work ethic. But I rationalise by wondering if there’s any point in leaving home at the same time as the 9 to Fivers when I have to spend twice the time getting to the University, due to rush hour traffic, than if I leave an hour later? It’s a sound argument. Especially if I take account of the journey home as well, for which I also leave later to avoid the inevitable crush. Surely it’s a better use of my time to take advantage of the flexibility that student life affords me?
I’m still thinking through these new developments.