It’s good, honestly. Stop asking…OK, ask me now.

My new pet peeve (that has taken over from those annoying people that get into the elevator first and chose to stand in the one place that blocks anyone else getting to those all-important floor buttons) is the question:

So, how is your PhD going?

It is always asked in such a casual and flippant way and I’m made to feel that I am undergoing a casual and flippant task. People rarely expect, or want, an easy answer—“it’s good” just doesn’t seem to satisfy. And yet I know neither are they interested in the mind blocks, the procrastination, the major breakthrough when reading the interview of the professor of ambicultural management that gave me an idea that rocked my world, or the frustration I had trying to work that damn referencing programme.

If I was to answer honestly, I would say: It’s up, it’s down; it’s hard and sometimes only mildly satisfying; I have many moments where I wonder just what I am doing with my life, and many more when I give thanks that I get to do something I enjoy; I dream of saving the world, but hope just to make a difference, to someone, somewhere, one day; yet I watch the emotional roller coaster of close comrades and wonder why I have put myself in this precarious position?? Should I even continue??

But I don’t. Instead I say “it’s going”, and then we talk about the weather.

But sometimes—every once in a while—I would like someone to ask me about my studies. I mean actually ask. Ask the kinds of questions that makes me want to tell them about the exciting stuff I think I do. And actually listen. Listen intently to the long-winded, vague and extremely hazy concepts that come out of my mouth (without trying to tell me about your mother’s friend’s son who knew a Māori once, or begin a rant about Treaty settlements).

But obviously only ask me on a good day, when I invite you to ask me. Most of the time I don’t want to talk about it. It’s too long-winded, vague and extremely hazy. And as soon as I finish the generic topic sentence of my studies—Māori spirituality in business—I watch the eyes glaze over: “Oh that is interesting…” Yes, it is, but even I am bored with that now, so let’s talk about the weather.

Amber Nicholson

Amber Nicholson (Ngāruahine) BMD (AUT), BCom(Hons), PhD Candidate Amber is a PhD candidate at the University of Auckland Business School (UABS); researcher at the Mira Szászy Research Centre for Māori and Pacific Economic Development; on the exec committee of the UABS Ngā Taniwha Māori Alumni network; and moonlights as a bartender and social butterfly. Her current doctoral research 'Arohia ngā tapuwae o ngā tūpuna: Heed the footprints of the ancestors' looks at Māori spirituality within business, specifically how the energy of ancestral landscapes shape business (or something). She completed a Bachelor of Commerce with First Class Honours in 2012 titled 'A Takarangi of Well-being: An Ambicultural Approach to Business and Economics'.

4 comments

  1. I believe this is a rite of passage for every single doctoral student. And the swing from caring-not caring to caring-not caring gets bigger until you nearly fling yourself off and kind of go, ok, I care, even if they don’t. If you get off the swing, we’ll be there to talk you back on…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Ha, ha …. I’m always faced with how far shall I go? On confident days I’ll say, “it’s on tino rangatiratanga and entrepreneurship….. what I mean by tino rangatiratanga is self-determination, independence, and Maori sovereignty as intended in the treaty, you know – at least equal power sharing in Aotearoa!”. That is usually followed by, “Wow, that’s interesting”, and then it’s weather talk. On less confident days it’s usually just, “It’s on Maori entrepreneurship”, but the response is most often the same.

    Liked by 1 person

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