before leaving last night, luky, our indonesian colleague at the ARC left solid advice on how we'll go about with our phd. looking at us earnestly ('us' meaning nicole, roxanne, jom and myself), he said, 'follow your supervisors'. ever elusive, he did not confirm whether there was ever any regret on his part that he may have not followed his own supervisors that's why he's leaving with a phd still ongoing (he would be finishing revisions back home).
but i could get his point.
before getting accepted to a phd here in murdoch, one has to present a whole range of 'competencies' and 'expertise' to qualify. in my part, had to demonstrate the projects worked on with adb and non-adb clients for the past 10 years since leaving murdoch uni in 2000. for others, it could be journal publications which is of greater weight because it shows rich research experience, in the academe.
in being a student once again, though, one has to shed off that 'expert' cloak and treat the phd process as a learning experience. of course, part of it is self effort as it takes more than energy to muster going out the door and walking to uni. one should have the drive, the faith in the face of 'buts', 'what-ifs', 'perhaps', or 'cant's'. one must just proceed (for so long as the weather is good and there's no thunderstorm).
to proceed means literally, to go with the process --- of learning. and that involves heeding the advice of others, more superior in the field. no matter whether sometimes, you could be at odds. with gaps in the language and the way that non-asian supervisors could sometimes frankly react on what you think and write, could a bit be disconcerting, given the differences in culture. i had incidents with jane and carol when i just could not 'get' them that by the time i was pushed to the limit, i had to respond with my own brand of frankness. told jane directly, 'i don't understand you', 'i don't know what you want me to do!' and to the pamatay statements, 'i don't want to see you. i don't want to meet with you'.
after that, when the fog cleared, i took to understanding (which means i did not understand outright --- i had to force myself to understand otherwise our relationship would suffer) that supervisors are not here to make your life a misery. it only happens that way because gaps between you, as regards theory, its application, and real world realities, would have to be bridged by constant and informed articulation and debate. in other words, you will not be sure about the strength of your arguments and claims in the thesis unless it is tested by the fire of incisive thought and word from your supervisors.
i know it's a rough road. in the metaphors i use, this phd is like a mountain and i'm into the many routes and crevasses which test how determined am i to seek for my own sense of the truth (I am being Nitzschean here) despite the falls and lost trails.
but if i would compare my writing then, to now, some progress has been made. not only that i'm on to something, but the route has been tracked with the earnestness and discipline of a phd. and i would have never reached this point if my supervisors were 'soft', chummy-chummy, and trying hard not to hurt me by being 'nice'. perhaps one test of good supervising is this: how often do you return to the table, despite the many arguments and debates? how far off can you stick with each other despite the flakiness and the wear and tear, of your professional relationship?
so thanks luky for saying it out loud. i will remember and i will heed your advice.