Harry Potter and the pressed nasturtium: a lesson in patience

I have been impatient since before I was born. To my parent's surprise (and delight, I hope), I was born 6 weeks premature, much too eager to see the world to patiently wait for my due date. 

But I have been feeling more impatient than usual lately. I am beginning to feel that the PhD is a lesson in patience, or perhaps that is just me! I have had delays in publication, delays in ethics processes, delays in my writing (or just a general lack of motivation)... everything just feels like it is moving very slowly. I feel this impatience spilling into my personal life. I want to be healthy, happy, confident, and connected... and I want it all now!

I have developed 2 strategies/analogies that I have started to reflect on each time I feel this impatience creeping in. 

Firstly, I think of Harry Potter (if you don't know anything about Harry Potter, feel free to skip to my next analogy, marked ***). There is an interaction beteen Harry and Ron in the Deathly Hallows that really resonates with me. My PhD experience is by no means as magical and dangerous as Harry, Ron and Hermione's quest to destroy Horcruxes, but I draw some strength from the comparison nevertheless.

Ron is unimpressed with Harry's lack insight into how to find Horcruxes:

‘I thought you knew what you’d signed up for,' said Harry.

‘Yeah, I thought I did too.'

‘So what part of it isn’t living up to your expectations?' asked Harry. Anger was coming to his defense now. ‘Did you think we’d be staying in five-star hotels? Finding a Horcrux every other day? Did you think you’d be back to Mummy by Christmas?'

‘We thought you knew what you were doing!' shouted Ron, standing up; and his words pierced Harry like scalding knives. ‘We thought Dumbledore had told you what to do, we thought you had a real plan!'

This quote reminds me to be patient. Doing a PhD is a big thing. It is not something that I can expect will be completed overnight (and it definitely won't be finished by Christmas, that's for sure). Like Harry, Ron and Hermione, I bumble my way through the journey, will chip away at my tasks bit by bit, and will hopefully destroy Lord Voldy in the end (or I might befriend him, we'll see what happens)!

*** Next, I think of pressing flowers.

I adore flowers and gardening, so I recently decided that I wanted to learn to press flowers. I started to search the internet for a good description of how I might go about it. In doing so, I triggered a really sweet childhood memory that had been lost for many years...

My darling sister and I used to attempt to press flowers when we were little (I couldn't have been more than 3 or 4, making my sister 6 or 7, at most), but we were never patient enough to let them actually dry. I remember spending hours finding the perfect flowers, then making huge stacks of books in the hallway (very likely using Dad's collection of National Geographic books), with the flowers pressed into the very bottom book, between sheets of baking paper. I remember thinking that the higher I could build the stack of books, the faster the process would be. So we would stack them up as high as we could, often over our heads. Then, every hour or so, we would come back to check on them, dismantling the stack and restacking it once more. By the end of the day, it wouldn't have worked (obviously), so we would discard the flowers and pack the books away, ready for another day. 

I like to think of this story as another lesson in patience, but also as a lesson in enjoying the process. My sister and I did this countless times, but I don't remember ever getting too upset or frustrated when it 'didn't work'. We just liked doing it.

I would like to regain some of that childlike disinterest in the final product, enjoyment of each step of the process. I don't just want to be patient, in terms of suppressing a desire to be 'finished' with the PhD, but I want to be content with and accepting of the PhD as a process.

I am striving to be okay with not finding Horcruxes every other day, and to be happy stacking the books just for the fun of it!

Jessica YoungComment