This is the break you are looking for

I’ve finished it! One more course completed and the work is done. Now for the break I’ve been looking for! I have a few weeks before things ramp up again with my final course in the PhD requirements – the Research Colloquium course. But now for the break I’ve been looking for!

It all started with a step! Just one step – that’s what I told myself.

Now that the work was done, I could slip back into a few things I hadn’t done for a while. Just one step into Twitter, where I’d been silent for most of the last month. I just wanted to see what folks were talking about. That lead to another and another step down the proverbial rabbit hole. So much for this break in time.

Now that the work was done, I could read a little bit for fun and amusement. This step led to the binders on my shelf that hold dissertations completed by others I’ve followed – examples and models of work completed in a PhD journey. Since these are open, accessible, and available, I’ve got them to help me along the way. Just one step into one dissertation – that’s what I told myself. Here I am, deep into areas of reading I didn’t expect to find. Bonnie Stewart’s blog posts and writing as she completed her doctoral studies are guiding me through the mire – just a first step. It’s led me to Melissa Terras’ blog post The verdict: is blogging or tweeting about research papers worth it? which prompted me to come back here to write. Is it worth it? I think so. But right now, this blog location lives in isolation. It is my hidden space, known to only a few, and followed by none. Maybe it’s time to change that? One more step to take during this break in time.

Now that the work is done, I can write what I want, not what I need to complete. That’s what I thought I’d do on this break – it’s my time after all! Well, that may be true, but the PhD process doesn’t stop. Writing should be a daily task, not one I can step away from to take a break. Even as I relax from the pressures of taking a course and completing course related work, my mind turns to other topics. It flips back to areas of reading and writing that I’ve left behind for a while. It flips forward to areas I know are yet to come – particularly the Comprehensive Portfolio. There’s reflection to write. There’s reading the prompts my thinking – which leads to writing. There are deeply reflective moments – over a coffee or a beer, worthy of writing down. There is a paper to write with a teacher educator in India, but some research to do as we prepare to collaborate and shift our relationship toward co-authoring rather than mentor/mentee. There is editing to be done on a book chapter soon to be published. There is writing to do in this break in time.

So I’m left with a question. Is there ever a break in a PhD? I know this is how it’s going to be this time. I know there will be days when I won’t hear the siren call to read, write, reflect, or connect. But I also know that this break is just what I need at this moment in the PhD journey.