Stop Gap

Big pitch day today, and my thoughts are with Annabel in the UK, along with all the good luck I can muster up.  Wish I could be with her as she strives to pitch for our row, but I know she will do a stirling job, and she has a lot of support from our ocean row support crew, and everyone is rooting for her.  Looking forward to a good catch up with her later to see how things have gone.

Time Out

Been a rather frustrating few days, so had to change the pace a little and introduce some more variety into the fundraising, so I’ve been decorating the hallway, and now feel much, much better about things and can see some progress in all aspects of life.  Been a weird couple of days, and had the first very little doubts about everything, probably old ghosts from the past, and wondering whether this whole plan was perhaps just a bit crazy.  But, great to be able to recognise that, acknowledge it, and not spiral down, but instead just take a break and a step back and re-energise a bit.  Raising funds was always going to be a massive challenge and leaving my job would always be a huge risk, but having walked into town to buy some pet food, and checked my bank balance, I was pleased to see that I am well under my budget, which means my bid to stay as independent and cost effective as possible is paying off, and not as bad as I had feared.  Not out of the woods by any means, and it still scares me to know that I don’t know when my next income will be, or what the future will bring, and deadlines are also looming.

But it is all just a part of the course, and I was sad to see that LLoyd had the same kind of few days as he managed to get through to the last stages of selection for the Tik and Bubbles Foundation, underwater headquarters, but didn’t make it to the final stage.  Now he has to start again from scratch with his quest to find the rest of the funds needed, though I still feel as if maybe our paths are destined to cross fund wise in the future, as mad as that sounds! And I’m really excited to be on the Board of Directors in the future.

Problem here, is that there are loads of funds we can apply for, and I’m applying and applying, but we won’t know anything for at least 8 months, when we really need to raise the minimum amount now.  Everyone tells us what a brilliant job we are doing, and there is so much potential, but we desperately need at least £800 which is what I need to live off for the next year in order to stay full time on OPG.  I’ve had a couple of offers for teaching work, but I really don’t want to go that route unless I absolutely have to, as I really want to focus on project and the row, and things are hectic enough as it is.  But, I’m really hoping and praying that the one short term grant we applied for comes through, because at least I’ll have expenses for the year ahead, and that will be a massive help.

Clash of the Worlds

Its kind of funny at the moment though, like being in two different worlds.  On the one hand, I’m saving every tetri and living as minimally as I can, and on the other we have invitations to attend conferences around the world to give talks and inspire women, and we are going to be filmed, and are talking launch parties and PR events for sponsors, in which case we need to be looking our best, and we have all these people supporting us and waiting to train us.  Biggest challenge is going to be to bring the two worlds together pre row, and with OPG too.  Don’t get me wrong, I love that so many people are excited about OPG and the row and that we have so many invitations and opportunities, but I would just like to have the basics covered first!


I’ve struggled the past couple of days, for several reasons.  Firstly, its been two weeks since I saw the OPG kids due to the Easter break, and usually they are the ones who really drive me fundraising wise.  Secondly, it feels like everyone has been unavailable over the UK and Georgian Easters, off doing nice things and taking forever to get back to me, in a minimal way, and only with unhelpful responses or worse still, no response at all (that really annoys me!).  I dont begrudge them being away at all, but I hate that we are on a tight time frame and whilst they are off, we are losing time and money, and then all I do get is critical things, and never positives or constructives.  That is immensely frustrating.  Thirdly academics are just driving me nuts right now, and I know that time is flying by and there is a mismatch in expectations.

I’ll give you an example.  I’ve decided what I want to do for my PhD, the big funding deadline is the 25th April, everything else is in place collaboration wise, and we are all ready to go and get the funding application in.  If we get the funding, it will be in January and will be enough to cover absolutely everything, so its a big deal to me, and everything is riding on it.  My potential PhD supervisor is a busy guy, but I’m getting frustrated that every time I email, he is either at a conference or is away on Easter holiday, or whatever.  He never follows up, you have to chase him, and then when he does reply two weeks later, the reply is ‘it’s too big intellectually for a PhD’.  Why couldn’t you have told me that 2 weeks ago, and in what way is it too big? I want to focus on a small aspect as far as I am concerned.  Plus he wants me to use local facilities to do my testing, when the test I want to use is only available through the guys who invented it in Australia, hence why its exciting and innovative!  This has massive potential and could change everything for the way NGOs and film makers work in the future, but because he is neither a film maker, NGO, or Neuroscientist, I think he just doesn’t get it.  even though he says that he really likes it, I don’t know which bits he likes and which he doesn’t, and as supervisor his guide is that my PhD should be trans-disciplinary, and incorporate art, media, technology, and/or anthropology.

Academic LaLa Land

This is the issue I have had with two other universities I was looking in to and where I was offered a PhD as they wanted me to change my topic into something that fit their interests and by the time they had finished with it, was no longer something that I was interested in, nor was it so useful.  But I guess that is the difference between people who sit an office or live in an academic world, and people who are out there on the coal face as it were.  I came to realise this disparity during medical school too.  Sat in a lecture hall, all of us students coming from years of employment in the NHS as a Paramedic, Pharmacist, HCA, or whatever, and being lectured by a tutor about how to communicate with patients, based on their own research from 1980 with a very small group of non-patients, and having never actually entered into a hospital or patient environment.  It was just patronising, and ridiculous, and then they would get all uppity if you asked them a question about something, and then they got all defensive, so you had to learn to keep quiet, knowing damn well that if you did what they wanted in an accident and emergency department or whatever, or communicated with a patient in that way, you were more likely to get attacked by a patient than be successful in getting your message across!  So, this was my fear when I decided I wanted to do a PhD, and though the current guys aren’t like this, in fact, they are very much out there, and not your typical academics at all, I still feel there is an element of the 9-5 cosy life, which is based on my having loads of time because I won’t start until October 2012, and then we have three years in which to organise things.  But that isn’t how it is for me, and yes, perhaps I’m not your typical PhD student too in all fairness.

But, my life just isn’t like that.  I’m about to row across the biggest ocean in the world. And I am running my own NGO in a foreign country, and I want to do my PhD using cutting edge technology on a subject that has never been covered this way before.  I want to have funding sorted by October, I want to be doing my background research and trial runs with 5 Gyres, before the PhD even starts.  In September, I’m supposed to be at a publicity event in San Francisco, and in January I want to be launching our online version of Oceans Project, and in May I’m going to move onto a boat for about 6 months.  I need to sort logistics out now, because its imperative for pitching to sponsors, and the funding grant deadlines are NOW!  So, yes I am a little frustrated, plus the fact I’ve been wanting to do a PhD for ages, and I really just want to get started on it now, and before things get hectic and crazy.  I was thinking about topics, way before I even looked into the possibility of studying for it, and at the end of the day, it’ll be me who is doing the work, and who is paying for it, so I feel I have the right to stick to my guns and focus on what I want to study (with a few tweeks here and there) rather than pay for the privilege of doing someone else’s work.  Especially since I am doing this for interest, a PhD is not going to help me career wise or in reputation or whatever, its purely for my own intellectual interest and wanting to push the boundaries of environmental education forward somehow.

Anyway, rant over!  But, I basically decided to take a couple of days off the fundraising because I wasn’t really in a positive frame of mind and really just needed to step back from it and refresh.  I had a great time decorating in the hallway, and it looks loads better already, and I can certainly see progress, which is what I need right now.  There’s no lightbulb in the hall, so I finished up just as it was getting dark outside as I couldn’t see what I was doing.  But this morning, I almost needed my sunglasses when I opened the door, as it was so dazzling and way lighter than it was before.  It looks much better, ad I’m itching to get on and finish off on the painting bit today hopefully.  And I have loads of ideas for the kitchen now too.  Amazing how just a lick of paint can be so uplifting psychologically!

So, today’s plan is to go through all the funds I need to apply for, put them in deadline order, decorate as much as I can whilst the sun is out and the hall has light, and then to go back to applying for at least one grant per day and working on the kids videos.  Though we have project tomorrow and plans for Sunday too.  But I think this should help me to get the old funding mojo back.  It was great to step back and process things yesterday, and I decided that I am still resolute on studying for my perfect PhD, and I’ll put in for the PhD funding anyway even though I don’t think I have a hope in hell of getting it as it looks to be one that you would usually spend a year planning for and would all be done in house.  But I figured there is nothing to lose, and maybe the process of writing for it will be good experience.  My idea is an unusual and groundbreaking one, which could have massive impacts for Finland (where the grant is coming from), and I figure they will either love it or they won’t, so I have nothing to lose by applying, only time.  I’m certainly happier and more on an even keel now I decided to stay true to my interests, rather than wasting time trying to come up with a new plan of something to study which doesn’t interest me so much.  I like advice and suggestions, but they need to be constructive and directional, I need to know why and how.  Otherwise, I’ll just get caught up in knots trying to think from different angles, especially when they come from people who just don’t get or understand what I am talking about.  What might seem complicated and difficult to another person, might be relatively easy for me, but changing to their plan might be easy for them and difficult for me, so there needs to be a balance, and since it will be me who is making the funding applications and putting in the graft or presenting at conferences, I’m going to take the decision to do what is within my abilities and enjoyment, otherwise what is the point of putting myself through three years of misery!!


About Sarah Rows Solo

British YouTuber and Founder of Environmental and STEM education charity Oceans Project, preparing for a solo row around the coast of Great Britain.
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