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Love’s Labour’s Lost

Love’s Labour’s Lost

Doing a PhD is a bit like being in a relationship. In fact, it’s exactly like being in a relationship.


You flirt with the idea of a PhD: the concept, the romantic relationship and the relational concept of romance. It seems like a great idea and your supervisor likes it too. After keeping it quiet for a few weeks, you mention the PhD to your friends. They tell you how happy you seem these days. In the abstract, they seem revolutionary, dynamic and completely adorable. You fail to note that the abstract goes at the beginning, and is very short.

Chapter 1

They can get dinner but they can’t, because they are paid but not paid. They are free, literally all the time, but they are never free. This is because they are working, all the time, although they might not actually be working. They will correct your understanding of Schrödinger’s cat. You eventually stop drawing analogies to Schrödinger’s cat. They correct your understanding of Pavlov’s dog. Now you love each other! You ignore your understanding of Stockholm syndrome. They correct your understanding of ad nauseam.

Chapter 2

They lecture you on folding tea towels, they lecture you on your drinking. They lecture you from 10 to 11 on Thursdays in E block room 32. You unequivocally, absolutely should not have taken that module. Your first proper argument is delayed by six months because of a competing institution abroad.

Chapter 3

Years pass. You build IKEA furniture together. You get a cat. They say panopticon a lot. You rent a lovely little house with a lovely picket fence. The only trouble is that you can’t go outside now. They become increasingly conceptual. ‘Is this a relationship or a thesis?’ you shout at one another. When you move again you lose several chairs and the bigger picture, although you insist that the smaller one is nice too.

Chapter 4

The big day is here. Your argument is shaky, your concept is weak at the knees. An academic asks if you have something borrowed. Of course you do! They correct your understanding of a PhD. You correct their understanding of ad nauseam. You are wise now, a lover of wisdom, a doctor. To be or not to be? It is not to be. The relationship ends after a three-hour discussion. You put on a mortar board. It is the best break-up ever and your dad takes photos.


There are several outstanding questions about what to do regarding the cat. Meanwhile, it is neither dead nor alive. You still don’t get it.

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