I like to think that I live in an animal-friendly, responsible neighbourhood. When our previous cat went missing a couple of years ago, the neighbours helped us search for her. When our dog escaped from the house through the cat flap, my neighbours caught her and brought her home to us. When our new cat climbs in through my neighbour’s kitchen window, I’m pretty sure they give him treats and play with him. This week, however, our neighbour’s cat was killed on the road outside our house. The person responsible didn’t stop.
These events and a recent PhD-related conversation with a friend got me thinking about responsibility. I’m an adult, a grown-up, a responsible person. Or so I’d have you believe. I’d never run over a cat and fail to stop in a bid to alert its humans, and I like to think that I am good at taking responsibility for my work. When it comes to my studies, however, I sometimes find that I lack that responsible attitude.
When I began blogging, I stated that I would share my plans and my achievements with anyone who would give up their precious time to read my phdonderings. I think, in most of my posts, I have done what I set out to do and that in general, it has helped me to focus and to meet my self-inflicted deadlines. My supervisor often reminds me that I have to put the structure into my studies, and the blog has helped me to do this. My last post, however, was not ended with any statement of intent and, as such, I have done very little studying over the past week.
I could blame this on a lack of time, but there were as many hours this week as every other week. I could blame it on the weather, but I tend to study indoors. I could blame it on Heidegger (the cat, not the philosopher) – he needed extra cuddles this week after his friend was killed – but he quite likes to sit and watch me study. Nope, when all is said and done, I only have myself to blame.
The problem is, I don’t like the concept of blame, despite its obvious relation to responsibility. In fact, one of the sentences in my thesis suggests that “an individual focus…should allow us not to blame, but to understand”. We live in a culture of blame. If you put on weight, blame the fast food chains. If you didn’t hand your homework in on time, blame the dog. If all else fails, blame it on the boogie. I prefer the idea that if something goes wrong, we should do the responsible thing and try to learn from it.
So, I have now learned that if I set myself a challenge, I’ll usually at least attempt to complete that challenge. I have also learned that if I don’t set myself a challenge, I’ll do very little. I suppose, in a roundabout way, this proves the blog is working. I am doing a PhD for me. It’s my responsibility. Only I can complete it, and only I can not complete it – it’s my call.
This week I’m aiming to take responsibility for the PhD, complete what I half-heartedly started last week, and by the end of the week I will have read, taken notes, and written a new section of my literature review.
Check me out, all grown up and responsible!