Liquid becoming: Reflections on post-PhD identity and momentum

Reflections on how

things can change across a year.

Liquid becoming.


Identities like

ice floes. Shifting. Writing self

into being. Flux.


Mutable quicksand

liquefying, swallowing.

Consumed or dissolved.


What does it mean to

be doctor me? One foot in

front of the other.

cherry tree trunk, Tidal Basin, DC

cherry tree trunk, Tidal Basin, DC

I’m finding myself in a moment of reflection, hence the above haiku-ification of my thoughts.

If I look back one year ago, I was blogging about blogging anonymously. I was introducing myself to people at conferences who knew my Twitter profile but would not have recognised my avatar, or my online name. Recently I have been letting go of that anonymity and this month updated my avatar and my name on my social media accounts, making myself identifiable and searchable. Although I’m still not sure entirely how I feel about that.

A year ago I was in the throes of struggling with my PhD thesis discussion chapter. Since then, the PhD is done. I am doctored. But my ‘doctor’ identity has yet to catch up with me. In changing my Twitter name and the title on my frequent flyer account (in-flight medical emergencies, here I come!) I’m hoping that my doctor-ness might start to feel like a part of who I am.

one of my favourite PhD memes

one of my favourite PhD memes

In the last year, wonderful unexpected things have happened in rhizomatic ways. I have been invited to speak at events. This blog was nominated for the Edublog Awards, and came fourth in the Best Individual Blog category. It was recommended by the likes of Professor Tara Brabazon, in this keynote podcast. I have had two peer-reviewed papers accepted for publication. My paper submission to the AERA conference was accepted, and so I went to Washington DC to present it and attend the conference. In the last eight months I have been involved in founding and co-moderating the monthly #educoachOC Twitter chat. The Times Higher Education blog asked to publish one of my blog posts (interestingly, one I would never have put forward). I’ve developed collegial, thinkerly and writerly relationships with people on Twitter and WordPress, many of whom I haven’t met in person. I’m in discussions with scholars about writing book chapters and co-authoring papers. These unforeseeable delights have shaped my year into something rewarding, interesting and surprising.

I write these things down partly to marvel at their coming into being, and partly to wonder about how it is that they have happened while I have quietly (or perhaps not so quietly) gone about my life and work.

In January I focused on a personal ‘one word’ for this year: ‘momentum’. The word ‘momentum’ continues to resonate with me. While I’m sure things will continue to happen and evolve, I have no Grand Plan. I continue to work at my Australian school. I continue to write papers from my doctoral dissertation. I continue to think about possibilities for work, research, presenting and writing that might serve my students, colleagues, school and the education community, while fuelling my own passion and inner nerd heart. I’m hoping that this one-foot-in-front-of-the-other approach (the same approach I used to get through the PhD) will build momentum, and that rewarding partnerships and important work will continue to bubble up and come into being.

It is Fred Dervin who writes about identities as liquid. I imagine the liquid mirror in the film The Matrix, which I also talked about in this post on reflexivity. But that liquid mirror was one that consumed the person, rather than the person themselves being liquid, which is, I think, a more uncomfortable concept. To be always shifting, always fluid, always becoming and even unbecoming.

As I simultaneously feel myself unravelling and re-forming, attempting to take some shape, I’m waiting for more stable internal identity ground for myself, post-PhD. In the meantime, I guess I can surf the shifting ice floes or try to luxuriate in the quicksand instability of feeling more inner liquidity than usual?

cherry tree trunk, Tidal Basin, DC

cherry tree trunk, Tidal Basin, DC