The Education Debate

Wisdom Teething!

I’m feeling a little out of sorts today.  The result of my impacted wisdom tooth playing up, pressing on a nerve, which gives me a muffled ear and a constant aching headache, and an annoying tendency to start biting my cheeks and inside of my lip when I sleep.  This is especially frustrating, because now I have three whopping crimson ulcers with large holes in the middle, which are making my lips very painful.  Now everyone thinks I’m in a bad mood because I don’t want to talk or smile, mumbled explanations seem to make the situation worse, especially when no one understands me, and then I really am in a grumpy mood!  I’ve also missed two Skype calls today that usually I’d have chopped my arm off for, because I couldn’t face talking and people thinking I was a miserable cow that never smiled or showed facial expressions other than a grimace (and a lopsided drool!).  It also makes eating really irksome, and to make matters worse, its over 40degrees in the house (joys of summer), and having the fan on has made my face and lips really dry and chapped.  I did put some lip balm on but then I had shiny lips that looked like I’d be kissing someone vigorously for a long time.

Now my glands under both sides of my jaw are sore, and at every bit of pain I’m getting palpitations, especially when trying to eat, drink or clean my teeth.  Its not really that bad, its not life threatening, its just one of those really annoying things that you get sometimes, and on the plus side, I keep thinking that life on a rowing boat in the Pacific Ocean can’t be any more uncomfortable than this!  And with each painful day, I keep telling myself its the healing that hurts and tomorrow it’ll be all done and back to normal again.  Seriously, if you ever wanted to torture someone, don’t bother doing anything else than giving them a mouth ulcer or two, it would work a treat I’m sure!!

More Latvia Limbo

I’m still a bit in limbo at the moment.  We had all the documents translated and notarised and traipsed up to the inland revenue office again, where we let them struggle with all the online uploading and application malarkey.  The plan being that we would hear the verdict within about two days.  That was on Monday, and today is now Thursday.  And even though we gave absolutely everything possible, there’s a little part of me that highly suspects they’ll just say no, just because, and then we’ll have to pay tax on the parcels anyway, and all my waiting around for the month and delaying my trip to Latvia would be all for nothing.  And I’ll be very cross at having to pay to get all those extra documents translated and notarised when they won’t be used every again.  On the other hand, if all goes to plan, we won’t have to pay tax and won’t have to go through this palava ever again.  Once we have the code, we then give it to customs, who will tell USA2Georgia that we can have our parcel and will hopefully deliver it to the house.  Then I just need to get Isla’s blood tests done for the flight, and book our tickets, though all the cheap fares have gone now and they all look ridiculously expensive.

Missing Yoga

In the meantime, all this limbo-ness has meant that I haven’t been buying food in, or cooking properly because every day I hope I’ll only be here a few more days.  That’s also expensive and hasn’t been great for my fitness, and because I keep thinking I’ll be leaving soon, I’ve not been to my yoga sessions either, so now I’m having withdrawal symptoms which also is making me frustrated.  Plus the stress is on me now to get lots of things done in a very short space of time, once the computer arrives and I get to Latvia as I have a book to write and publish by September, an award ceremony to organise and a host of other things.

Reality Check

But I had a bit of a reality check today.  I’m still waiting on news of my PhD in Sweden, turns out everyone is on holiday now.  I did hear something on the 115th, but it was in Swedish and not clear, so again its limboland.  I started to look into other options again, and the previous offers I had.  I’ve spent so much time on the PhD that I probably could have written and published one by now!  This week rather coincidently, I got some replies back from queries I made to potential supervisors back in April!!! Some have never even bothered replying, some have led me on a wild goose chase, but some things seem to be the same throughout….all of them want me to change my proposal what ever it is, and every time I basically seemed to ed up with something that is nothing like what I started with, has no interest in it for me at all, and is basically the Supervisors own research, that I would end up doing for them, with little support, and having to pay the privilege for.  Worse still, the cost of tuition in the UK has gone up to over £4000 per year, plus other fees, plus travel and accommodation, and money for the actual research itself.

Uncomfortable Boxes

I found myself getting quite disheartened, not because of the research or hard work in figuring things out, but because of feeling like I was trying to force myself to conform again and to do things that would leave me feeling cheated and unhappy, jut like medical school when I felt hemmed in and like I was missing out on my own life in my struggle to conform with some academic who had little in common with the real world or my reasons for breathing.  All my joy of learning was being sucked out of me again.  And what started out as something fun and fascinating and joyous was being bashed into something I no longer recognised.  My research is related to my ocean row and my arctic expedition, things I’m madly excited about, but somehow the academics turned them into the most boring thing ever.  I wasted a whole day trying to make things work today, and not just today.  How sad is that.

To Publish or Not?

Then I discovered that to publish articles and to do scientific research, you don’t even need to be doing a PhD, you can just do it yourself and submit papers to journals yourself.  Was that what I was interested in, having research papers published?? Actually, no its not.  Was it about having the accolade of being called Dr or having a PhD? No, in fact far from it as I tend to view people with PhDs negatively on the most part, rather than being excited or admiring them for it. How weird is that!  In fact most of the people I admire the most in life, don’t even have a degree, and they all seemed to have got by in life just fine, by following their dreams, doing what they want, and because of that energy, they do it well and people give them respect because of that.  Those who do have PhDs have honorary ones that they were given for services to the community or to science or whatever. So why did I want to do a PhD????? Good question!  I thought it would help OPG if I had one, simple as that.  I thought it would give us more credibility as an organisation.  As if rowing an ocean and walking to a place on the planet that no one has ever been to before might not count as something cool enough! I’m doing both of those things because they enable me to do what I love and to give something back, and my doing a PhD I just don’t feel as if I’d be giving anything back.  And giving is what makes me happy.

And just because something isn’t published in a yancy fancy scientific journal or whatever, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t true, nor does being published mean it is either.  In this day in age there are so many more written outlets, unlike previously where the only way to share such things was through journals aimed at peers.  Even scientists don’t always get their work published and everything goes through peer review.


I found myself back in a strange place, corresponding with PhD holders who were now lecturing young students.  I found myself apologising and justifying myself for not having papers published already and for not have hundreds of letters after my name, or the right letters for particular interests.  I started undervaluing all the strengths I do have and all the great things I’m involved with, and that was when I realised that this was the world I had escaped from, and I really didn’t want to be back in it, trying to be something that I am not.  Its been the same all my life.  I love to learn and I love to be creative, I loved Steiner school because we were free to learn in our own way and to be creative, and I’m still stuck in that place where I left Steiner school for a stuffy old state school where I didn’t fit in, and where learning became a chore rather than an honour.  I lost that passion and creativity.

Love Creativity

I’ve loved being in Georgia, and I especially love OPG and my life right now, because I’m free to do all the creative and learning things that I couldn’t do before, and I’m cross that here I am trying to climb back into a box that I hate, just because I’ve been brought up to feel bad if I do things just because I want to.  Why can’t I just row that ocean and enjoy being in the moment? Why does it need an academic or research label attached to it so that it can be justified? How did things get this way?  What did I learn from my degrees, and did I really enjoy them, or was I just trying to fit into society’s norms?  Sadly I think it was the latter.  Education is a great thing don’t get me wrong, but its certainly not the be all and end all.  Its highly over rated, and most of what I have ever learnt is from enjoying and living my life, rather than sitting and reading and memorising some dead person’s theories on what they observed back then in 1700 or whatever.  Life is constantly moving and changing, and its better to earn as you go, learn from your mistakes, and have survival skills, because the grades you get don’t matter, nor do qualifications always matter.  Yes they help you fit into society and tick boxes, but equally there are some fantastic people out there, who have done amazing things without ever having a degree or qualification to their name.  Its about your energy and attitude to life, that is what makes or breaks you.  Its sad when I think how many quality moments I missed with family or friends because I was always studying for something or other.  I like studying for sure, but there were times when I did it because I felt I had to, not because I wanted to, because fear of failing would have been awful.

But here I am again.  I should be excited and looking at boat designs, but instead I’m stressing because I don’t yet have my PhD sorted.  A PhD, that it turns out, I’m not really that interested in, but was pursuing because I felt it was something I should do, to justify my life being a happy one right now.  So I’m giving myself a kick up the bum and a sharp reminder to think carefully about what is most important to me right now.  And its simple, I want to do everything I can by OPG, I want to get to the point where OPG is financially stable and able to give me a salary to live off, I want to develop my creative side, to start drawing and painting again and to write books, even if no one ever buys them, I want to raise the funds so that I can go on the ocean row with my team mates, and I want to go on my arctic expedition and to enjoy training and getting fit again.  Its all very clear to me now, and a PhD doesn’t add anything to the equation, instead it takes away from my love of everything.  So with that, I’m going to stop pursuing it and trying to fit around people who I have no connection with.  Its a waste of time, energy, and money, its obviously not meant to be.  I need to refocus on what IS important in my life,


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.
This entry was posted in Being a Medic, Britishness, My PhD: Environmental Psychology, Ocean Rowing, Oceans Project, yoga and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Education Debate

  1. CLAUDIA says:

    Hope you feel better soon!

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