Who is better..?

When you are told that you should be contributing to a blog it would than seem that every event, conversation and observation is scrutinised to see if there is anything bloggable in the content! My life it would seem is reasonably unbloggable or so I thought, until a thought provoking conversation at work.

Let me take you back to the sunny week last summer. I had the day previously had all four wisdom teeth removed and therefore was at home drinking ice cream and utilising a minimal vocabulary, not something I am used to doing. The ten year old mentioned in a previous blog had come round with his father to replenish my supplies and finding me minimally interactive he decided to test out my mother with some philosophical debate. There was no warming up with general chit chat he went straight to the crux of the matter “who is better Sponge Bob or Mr. T?” For those of you who don’t know Sponge Bob is a cartoon character who lives in Bikini Bottom with his friend Patrick, a starfish and Mr. T is a member of the A-Team, a soldier of fortune who is on the run for a crime he and the team did not commit- clearly neither are real but to a ten year old they are pivotal members of his imagination.

My mum is sixty two years old and although there are no children in her life currently, she did have a career as a child psychologist, so although this question superficially made no sense to her she decided to play the “best form of defence is attack” card and returned the volley with “well who is happier?” The debate then continued for some time as to what makes people happy and why being on the run may not facilitate mental well being.

I was reminded of this conversation just the other day in work when I was introduced to someone as “this is Cath she used to work here” (the fact I still do seemed to have gone un-noticed, make of that what you will) “she doesn’t anymore as she has gone to the university to better herself”. I politely laughed this statement off but it did get me thinking, is doing a PhD going to make me better?

I would really like to think that I was at my best the day that I was born, I had not had a chance to forget any birthdays, run over any pets or say the wrong thing at a family party; my mother would argue against this she has the scar and weight gain to prove it! So if it is not going to make me a better human being what is it going to make a better!?

I can’t think that having a PhD will make me a better clinical nurse, I am not saying that I am a fabulous nurse by any stretch, but when thinking about some of the excellent nurses I have worked with over the years none of them have had a PhD so that cannot be the answer.

So if during this process of “bettering” myself I am not going to improve as a person or as a clinician what was that statement all about? I am sure some of my previously primitive research skills will have improved as has my ability to use power point and to misfile things on End-Note but I don’t know that any of this is “bettering” myself. So let us return to my mother’s response in her assessment of who is better, who is happier? Taking happier as a proxy measure of better. We are now not comparing Sponge Bob with Mr. T (which quite frankly is fraught with problems as we are not comparing like with like) but me before I started my PhD to me in the middle of my PhD. Am I happier? The simple answer is yes I am happier as I am doing something that I find fulfilling and rewarding, in an entirely different way from clinical practice. It is quite liberating at the age of thirty six to realise that there are different things out there to be doing and that although I have the odd wobble (like not being able to write) you can always learn new things and change direction in life as many times as you like and as long as it makes you happy then it is probably making you better (or at least easier to live with- ask my mother!).

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