Hey all! Day Six on the new antidepressant. Mood has been not entirely stable; it was pretty low a couple of days ago, and I've been feeling mildly headachy for the past couple of days. On the plus side, I'm not seeing much else in the way of side effects, which is good. What's also helping is that a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders because, as of yesterday, I received the blessing of my family to put the PhD on hold (or, if I so desire, to give it up entirely) and return home.
So you read it here first, boys and girls. After 2 years back in Perth, during which I've accomplished some things but haven't accomplished others; during which I've had some fun but have been feeling isolated and largely unsupported... I'm ready to call it a day. And the parentals have given their nod of approval. My supervisors at uni have told me that my self-care is ultimately what's important; "the university is just a machine," one of them even said as recently as yesterday.
I have two options: A six-month "pause" on the scholarship, during which I could remain in Perth subject to immigration conditions (the relevant dept will be notified of my suspension and will set rules accordingly) or return back home to Malaysia and then come back in after six month; or to dis-enrol 100% and consider this attempt at PhD-ing over and done with.
Either option leaves me with the conundrum of what to do for money, since I might not be able to work without a valid student visa, and since I wouldn't have the scholarship money coming in, which in turn would mean I wouldn't be able to pay for rent. (Speaking of which, I have to figure out what to do with the lease on this new place, which, as you recall, I just moved into a couple of months ago.) I do not have enough money in savings to keep paying rent without the scholarship allowance. Poo.
The more realistic option for me, I'm thinking, is to call it quits altogether. The chances of me coming back after six months and practically starting from scratch (since my new supervisor isn't entirely approving of the method of research I'd been looking at for the past 1.5 years) are virtually nil. "If you choose to continue, whether at this juncture or six months from now, you'd be in for a lot of work," she warns. "You'll have to think if the pressure might be too much. You'd practically be starting all over again, and you might find it difficult to finish it within the 1.5 years you have remaining on your scholarship. Realistically you would need another three years, if not longer."
Yikes. Screw that.
Boys and girls: for all intents and purposes, it's over. The truth of the matter is, my love affair with Perth came to an end weeks/months ago. So I'm really, truly ready to move on. Or in this case, move back. And with the family giving their thumbs-up, I've moved many notches towards the right on the Stay/Go meter. The decision is at least 90% made.
And like my new supervisor said, ultimately my health and care are the most important things; I shouldn't stay out of a sense of obligation to the university, or the scholarship, or family. "Do what's right for you," she says, while also reassuring me that there's no shame in leaving: "It doesn't leave a black mark on your record or anything. If you wanted to, you could re-enrol and start again in future." And she told me the story of one of her current PhD students who burnt through a three-year full scholarship at another university, failed to finish his/her PhD, and started from scratch at Murdoch. So there's that.
Ultimately where does this leave me? Trying to work backwards from a predicted date of departure, I suppose. I'm trying to work out realistically how much time the uni would allow me to retain my financial allowance and immigration/student status, which impacts on my rent payments, lease agreement, and right to remain in the country. I have to work out with the Real Estate Agent what to do now that there are circumstances that change everything. I have to discuss with poor Plant Lover Housemate, my beloved roomie, on how this affects him and what he plans to do with the lease and the household material possessions, some of which belong to me. I have to sell my car. I have to pack up everything. And this could all happen within a matter of weeks.
So wish me luck, boys and girls. This is an impending closing of a chapter; the end of an era.