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Why I quit my job to do a PhD at the most secure point of my career.

I get these questions a lot. Why now? Why at this age? Why up and leave a stable life?

So here we go.

I felt extremely secure in my work in the last couple of years. I had a full client load, was in long-term therapeutic work with my clients which was very fulfilling and meaningful. It was also exactly the kind of work I enjoyed the most. I was under further training in Group Analysis in an incredible programme by Hank Nunn Institute and enjoying my writing which I posted on my Instagram page and blog. I finally had a community of therapists I felt engaged with and more or less, I was happy.

But the last few years of COVID moved something in me. Deep inside, I felt drained. I was giving a lot of myself but wasn’t doing anything to fill myself creatively. And I don’t mean in terms of work-life balance or burnout. I had a 4.5 day week which was plenty balanced. I took breaks often – sometimes 'too often'. But I felt I was stagnating as a person. I hadn’t read a full book for leisure in years. I had so much to think about and create, but no empty space or energy left to actually build on it. I took on short projects like workshops or webinars, but was unable to stay with ideas for long like writing a paper with a colleague. Thinking, forming ideas and creation requires empty space. But because of the emotionally demanding nature of the job, I felt completely emptied. This is not the kind of work that switches off once you close your laptop. It stays with you, it changes you and often, lives in you for years to come. The creative, thoughtful, soulful part of me felt like it was slowly drying away.

I felt a pressure to socialize, spend energy on friends and family. I had to meet the demands of everything around me except my intellectual curiosity. That always took the back seat over people – clients, friends, family or loved ones – or emotions and practical, daily life stuff. I felt like I was wilting because the sun wouldn’t reach me. This isn’t to say I felt this all the time. It was just a soft, nagging feeling at the back of my head. I prioritized everything over my intellectual growth. And I know this probably sounds insane given what an intellectually rigorous job psychotherapy is. But its not rigour but the creativity I craved. To be playful with my ideas and curiosities. Deep dive into the ocean with them and see where they take me. To freely go as they go into the wild.

I did not have the psychological space to.. breathe. Inhale. And stay with an idea. Flesh it out. Make it bigger than myself. The job I loved the most was being faculty at St. Xavier’s College. That felt like an oasis because it reminded me of the priority of intellectual curiosity while being a student. All the space we could give to breathe life into our ideas and make them into something meaningful. And more and more, I felt like I wanted to be back in that space. Not to rest, but create. Carve out time just for this. I gave myself 2 years to apply for a PhD and get funding. Applying for this was one of the most difficult processes of my life, even though I managed to get it the first attempt. Don't let anyone tell you applying for a PhD does not feel like a full time job in itself, because it does. But in the whirlwind of writing and submitting proposals, somehow, I found my way back home to the University of Edinburgh. And here I am. Trying to play with the thoughts that now run so much more freely in my head.


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