THIS IS HOW IT STARTED – Step 3 on the path to my next book – Beginning my doctoral studies.

I missed the first meeting of my doctoral cohort as it was the day after I landed in Nepal. I had booked a 3-week solo trip to include time at a Buddhist retreat, a plane flight over Everest and a helicopter ride to Annapurna Basecamp. (where the photo was taken).
I was able to meet up twice, once in December 2019 and again on 1 February 2020. We were researching different topics, but so helpful to be part of a group. Then we hit lockdown and we moved to regular Zoom calls. My studies would have been so much harder without the group. I remain eternally grateful for the companionship and support from Dr Hayley LewisDr Clare Mulligan-FosterDr Gemma Leigh RobertsDr Hannah HaikalJustin SprayJerry Martin C. Psychol., AFBPs and Tim.

My doctorate wasn’t easy, but I never felt like giving up. I was fascinated by the research into meaningful ageing and retirement adjustment. Interested in exploring a lot of extra reading. I was studying a topic aimed at people like me. I had got some thoughts on a book, but these were put to one side, I had enough to do with the research. Year one was the systematic review, I needed to fully understand what research had been undertaken on my area so I could spot the gaps and also to bring it together, looking at research in a different way. Then the exciting stuff, but on reflection the deep understanding of my topic was so very useful. 

THIS IS HOW IT STARTED – Step 4 on the path to my next book

The culmination of doctoral research is writing the thesis and defending the arguments at a viva. I submitted on 10 September 2021. The thesis goes through software to check for plagiarism and the university seeks out the 2 academics who will interview me. Checking on dates I found a newsletter I’d sent to my subscribers, and I think it is worth sharing here:

I know it is just a stage – I’m waiting to find out my examiners and have the date for my Viva (Intense interview about my research) but it is a massive milestone to complete in 2 years.

I’d missed the first cohort meeting back in October 2019 as I was in Nepal. Had two cohort sessions before lockdown struck, we continued via Zoom and a WhatsApp group, and whilst at one level I had more time, like so many I was under stress and felt it hard to concentrate.

I hadn’t done academic work for about 25 years, and it was hard. I could have dropped out, but I have resilience and determination and kept going, week after week, study after study. So much was hard work – learning how to critically appraise academic papers, trying to make sense of complex stats, write in an academic style, and referencing …. So many times, not making proper notes and having to search and search again. And that was just the first year! I then moved on to my independent research, I had to gain ethical approval, undertake in-depth interviews, and then learn how to use the methodology I’d chosen that was more in-depth than I’d expected. Then final write up and lay out, and more corrections.

But I’m there. I have my thesis as a PDF with word count and submission forms and Friday afternoon I uploaded. I’m not getting worried about the viva; it’s all part of the process and I know my research and I’ll be ready to defend why this approach and not that one etc.

Looking back to school days, I was at Grammar school, but I didn’t enjoy it, didn’t work, don’t think the methods matched my learning style. Left with 4 O levels and no one had any expectations of me.

The Open University changed my life. I was working for The Post Office they paid for 80% of my fees and I got promotion after promotion. They also made significant contributions to my counselling qualifications, MSc in Occupational Psychology, and my MBA. But these qualifications were all because I wanted to enhance my career prospects.

Studying for my Doctorate at 60+ I could study something that I wanted to, a subject that fascinated me and was meaningful. Over the coming months I’ll be sharing more about it. My research is into how people find meaning after full-time work and I undertook in depth interviews with 7 individuals.

I’m feeling like an academic, I’ve spoken at an online research conference and more recently spoke at a professional forum, talking about retirement transitions. I look forward to more opportunities to talk about my work.
My readership covers a wide range of ages, what we all share in common is that in time we will age. In time we will move on from full time work. I also wonder if this may be relevant at an earlier stage – looking forward to make sense of the now.

Never feel too old, or too anything – if you want to do something you can go for it, and if there are voices in your head that hold you back, that’s something that we could talk about.
On 9 November I was given the date of December 16th for my viva – the only date the 2 academics could both be available, and I said yes.