Sunday, April 14, 2013

Confessions of a trainee academic

Any day now I am sure I will be outed, exposed as some kind of pretender to the throne of academic thought. So I’ll get in first with a confession: I’m making it all up as I go along. Or at least it feels like it.

In conversation, I often struggle to remember the names of those authors whose writing speaks to me. My head sometimes feels like it’s so full of ideas that crucial information just doesn’t stick. Sometimes I feel like a total fraud, unsure of my own fledgling arguments and wandering lines of thought.

But it's okay, because I am not alone in this.

One of the best things I did at the start of 2010 was to attend a short course run by the Learning Skills centre at uni. It was called ‘Making a first class start to your Honours year’, and one of the first things the presenter said was that each and every one of us sitting there probably felt like a bit of a fraud. That we somehow weren’t worthy of the expectations associated with postgraduate study and couldn’t attain the levels of discipline and knowledge required, but that we were also quite wrong. I can still remember the audible sigh of relief that rippled around the room as we turned to the person next to us and gave them a nervous, understanding smile.

We’d been rumbled – but it was okay, it was normal, we weren’t alone in having these anxieties. Maybe we could do this after all.

And yet, the self-doubt remains.