This liminal space – by Bernie
"While in the liminal state, human beings... are in between the social structure, temporarily fallen through the cracks, so to speak, and it is in these carcks, in the interstices of social structure, that they are most aware of themselves. Yet liminality is a midpoint between a starting point and an ending point, and as such it is a temporary state that ends when the initiate is reincorporated into the social structure" (La Shure, 2005)
And so I find myself at the beginning of my third and final year of the PhD life. There will be no fourth year, and as one of my supervisors so eloquently (!) put it last week, in a year's time I will need to find a job in order to feed my family. I feel somewhat overwhelmed as I contemplate the task before me - the work of making all these thoughts and ideas (my own and others') into a beautiful, honest, coherent whole - but I know it can be done. And I certainly relish the challenge of making it so!
In a conversation with my other academic supervisor last week, he talked with me about my future direction. I expressed my fear of academia, which is based on several elements: not wanting to be like my lovely, kind, heart-of-gold, but ultimately other-wordly mother; not wanting to lose my credibility as a midwife; and the fear of just not being clever enough. For goodness sake, my Business School supervisor still says things that I DO NOT UNDERSTAND. AT ALL.
But equally, I can't go back to my former state - what is the point of a midwife with a PhD if I just go back to where I was, frustrated, tired, and constantly ILL? I would have achieved nothing. And let's not forget, there would be no acknowledgement of my PhD status - you don't get a promotion for such things in the NHS.
So here I am in my liminal space. Do I move forwards of backwards? Can I bridge the gap? Can I be a midwife in academia without losing my midwife identity? Can I be an academic in midwifery and learn to be proud of my academic identity? My supervisor is of the opinion that I should be in academia, as I can make a difference there, and I feel quite drawn to the idea of teaching things like research methods to student midwives and convincing them that it really is EXCITING and RELEVANT.
And here's my last point: have I really been in this liminal space for two whole years? Wow. I think that's quite an achievement! I never really left midwifery, but I've yet to properly embrace academia. There's a beautiful symmetry with my midwife interviewees here - they go through a similar liminal process in the transition from practitioner to leader/manager. Maybe I'll just watch and learn from them...
And now, back to the attempts to make my thoughts into a beautiful THING!