I was saying to my friend Ragnar that I feel like I’m on the dance floor on a night out but it’s too early and the music is not quite there yet and I wanna dance but my whole body is tense and weird and I am being unnecessarily aware of all of its micro robotic movements. That’s how the beginning of a PhD feels like. There’s (already) a big list of things to do, places to go, people to meet, things to read and write but something is slightly awkward. But it’s kinda ok because I know that on a night out, I eventually reach a point where everything in my body feels fluid AF and I’m moving to the rhythm like there’s no tomorrow and everything makes sense and it’s really intense and awesome.
Last week I moved to Glasgow with loverman Tim and we managed to unpack and furnish a whole flat to the point where it looks like we’ve lived here a few years already. After the tiny place we had in London, it really feels like a luxury and privilege.
And privileged is an also an underlying feeling when you’re on a fully funded PhD. There’s a lot of gratitude, a lot of responsibility, and a lot of acknowledgement of how seemingly random these scholarship selection processes seem to be. I’ve naively battled with the idea of meritocracy for a long time – as most things in my life, I blame my parents for it – and witnessed its failure in action on several occasions. So why did I get the scholarship and not someone that I am sure is at least as capable as me? For the same reason some other people got it in other places where I put through an application and I didn’t. I suppose I have to wait until I’m in an awards committee to really understand the selection process because right now, it makes no sense to me.
Every time an application fails to get the funding, after so much hard work, you are still supposed to be the one that believes that, in fact, failing in arts funding is not a direct reflection on your intrinsic qualities but just the way these systems work sometimes. And I seriously feel for all of us out there, trying their utmost and failing – it’s really motherfucking tough. And there’s not enough money for how many amazing people there are, and some of us need to re-route our dreams and others just get the golden ticket and enjoy all the chocolate.
I was speaking to a fellow scholarship recipient yesterday and it was encouraging to know he was pondering the same questions. Because we know that we’ve made applications of similar value many times before that weren’t even shortlisted. And that’s the way the cookie crumbles. And it’s not really what I wanted to start with on this blog but I guess sometimes you gotta let it out. Yes, I’m still asking why I got the funding after a whole summer in which I couldn’t quite believe this PhD is really happening. But I am here and everybody else seems real and my banking app has notified me that there’s a chunk of money that is due to become available in my account tomorrow and the flat is furnished and the rain is as ever present in Glasgow and this shit is really happening.
I have also decided that this blog is going to have swear words. Because this is how I speak and it’s my website where no one else is keeping me accountable and I won’t be able to say fuck, shit, cunt, dick in any other piece of writing I do in these four years of academia (unless I put it on a stage) and I can already feel the need for a cushiony refuge. So yeah, I guess here’s a delayed fair warning.