One year on

On Monday, I received an email telling me it was time to register for the 2016-17 academic session. Which means it’s almost a whole year since the project officially started. This got me thinking about what this year has been – the progress, the achievements, the hurdles – and what the next year will bring.

First and foremost, this year has been fun. Whether it’s been getting to know Burns better or getting to know new colleagues, other PhD students or new contacts within the Burns community, I’ve loved being immersed in academia and in my subject.

All this means it’s also been a busy year – reading, writing, meetings, conferences, talks, workshops and seminars – the past 12 months have been pretty jam-packed with activity. And it’s all been juggled with the demands of family life (not to mention an house move this summer.)

However, it’s been a draining year – physically, mentally and emotionally tiring. Keeping the brain switched on to read an article or book chapter (usually several), ploughing on until a conference paper or talk is written, standing in front of an audience asking very helpful-but-challenging questions, laying the foundations of an academic profile, coming to terms with the demands of the academic role and the shift in how that fits in with the rest of my life (that’s been the really tricky one for me) – they all take their toll. It’s been important to have other things in life to provide a change of pace and focus, and accepting that taking time out can be more beneficial than just trying to push on.

But more than anything, it’s been a year of success! The project is well and truly off the ground, with a pile of work having gone into generating the first data relating to evidence of mood disorder in Burns’s letters. Thousands of words have been written, drawing together background reading, methodology, results analysis and forward planning. Important contacts have been made at various conferences and events. Exciting collaborations and side projects are being discussed and explored. And everyone seems happy with how things are going.

So here’s to the next year. Tomorrow will see me get my hands on some real Burns manuscripts for the first time (I am SUPER excited about this!). September is my first major research trip, taking me to visit colleagues at the University of South Carolina. Hopefully, we’ll see the first publication of work from the project and maybe another conference paper or two. And who knows what else….but I can’t wait!


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