Sometimes, one person can make all the difference.

I’ve been in a quandary work-wise for a while. It’s a long story which I won’t go into detail here. But suffice to say that after having come so far in my thesis proposal, I’ve learned that the topic is not quite feasible. Why? Mainly because there aren’t sufficient publicly accessible policy documents for me to analyze in the way I had wanted to. It was something I had to come back to Singapore to find out for myself. *sigh*

It is very, very disheartening. And after the discussion I had with a couple of professors at NIE today, I was even more depressed because I felt like I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. I knew deep inside that the best thing to do is to ‘cut bait and run’, i.e. start thinking of new solutions instead of being attached to what I’ve worked on for the last 8 months. But when was letting go ever easy?

I felt like a failure. Why did it take me so long to find out this couldn’t work? I knew this kind of experience was part and parcel of research, and yet, I felt really incompetent. I began to doubt myself all over again. Maybe I didn’t have enough passion. Why am I stuck again? What should I do? With every possible solution I thought of, there was some kind of potential obstacle. And I was just so, so tired.

I felt like I should call my supervisor (in Toronto) to update him on this sad discovery. I was a little ashamed of having to tell him after all this time that, ‘hey, btw, i think i can’t do this topic….’ But that phone call turned out to be the best thing to have happened to me work-wise all week!

First of all, he didn’t sound surprised. (?!?!) He said this was the reason he wanted me to come back to Singapore first before starting to write my thesis, because he wasn’t familiar with the Singapore context and wanted me to find out if there was sufficient material for my topic. He said it was good that all my meetings with profs here have been discouraging for me. It shows there is consensus that the topic I’ve chosen is not a good topic to do. (ha ha… it certainly didn’t FEEL good)

Then, he went on to tell me some ideas he has been thinking of for me in such a case (so touched!). And he asked me to consider doing a more ‘traditional’ philosophy dissertation, one that we can be confident that there is no lack of relevant literature.

Finally, as if he knew how miserable I felt, he affirmed his confidence in me. To hear him speak of what I can do so confidently at a time when I felt like a zero was vastly encouraging.

In the space of 30 mins, I went from anxious and heavy-hearted to relieved and encouraged because of a teacher that cared. :)


  1. Ha ha Jing, you have a one track mind!

    I’ll still be stationed in Singapore. But there’s a chance (if I decide to make significant changes to my proposal and get a new committee member) I’ll be visiting Toronto some time early next year for a short stay (few weeks). Didn’t want to tell you yet, ‘fraid you’ll get your hopes up. :P

  2. Only just had time to read this post. You’re unbelievably lucky to have such a wonderful supervisor/ prof/ mentor, and even I’m feeling happy for you from so far away, haha! Good luck with the next phase of your research, and let me know when you’re flying back again.

  3. Thanks, Ken. :) I know I am really unbelievably lucky… been very blessed in the area of teachers and mentors in my life. Also with family and friends… even of the kenitic kind. *broad grin*

  4. hey girl!

    jia you!! don’t let yourself feel bad for too long (but feeling bad is MANDATORY during PhD!!! haha!! part of the kungfu training, you know?). and if both you and your sup think it’s time to move on, do MOVE ON and look back only if you can learn a lesson from this project that wouldn’t have worked with the currently available resources. guess i’m quite qualified to say this huh… just gave up the project that i spent 2.5 years on and now have to balek and push the re-start button… good to hear you have a supportive sup. cheer up!!

  5. Leng & Sherry: Thank you. :)

    tuan2fish: Ha ha…. hey thanks! It’s so good to get encouragement from a fellow runner trying to make it to the PhinisheD line. Jia you to you too!

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