As I edge ever closer to the submission date of my PhD thesis, I can now relax a bit. I can afford to look back on a bizarre incidence that happened to me on Thursday 29 September, 2016. I had a scheduled meeting with my supervisor in the late afternoon but I decided to go in early to the department to get some printing done and also catch up with colleagues. I had sent my draft thesis to my supervisors about 3 weeks prior to the meeting. I felt so exhilarated after sending in the draft that I couldn’t bear to think of the thesis anymore. It felt good to keep my distance. To put some space between myself and the thesis that had intensively occupied my every waking moment over the summer when I was in Cape Town. Furthermore, I was occupied with all that comes with settling into my new role as a Lecturer in Tourism Management at the University of Lincoln. I switched focus from my thesis (and forgot all about it) to getting to grips with the admin and finalising module handouts and preparing lesson plans for lectures and seminars. This was my state of mind on that date as I went to my Department of Urban Studies and Planning to prep for my supervisory meeting. On that day I was not in a position to provide a coherent answer to the question of what my thesis was all about – even to myself. If it was a 3MT (3 Minutes Thesis) competition, I would have flopped. I could only come up with fluffy convoluted response.
When I got to my department in the early afternoon, I kept up my old habit of checking out the book shelf in front of the departmental office to see what new and interesting notices, magazines and general university-related info sheets were available. True to form, there were copies of the new summer 2016 edition of the Research Newsletter of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. I picked up one of those and went to the my desk in the Postgraduate Research Room to sit and have a read through. It was then that I realised that I had been featured in the Newsletter with the title – “Tourism and Planning in Ghana – Emmanuel Adu-Ampong tells us about his PhD research in Ghana”. I was pleasantly surprised and was greatly impressed with the succinct summary provided of my research. I had no recollection (at that moment!) of having written any of that. Neither did I remember of granting an interview. The words on the page describing my research were so polished and far removed from the incoherent ideas swirling in my mind at that moment. I wondered whether perhaps someone had made that summary based on drafts of my thesis that I sent to my supervisors. I even showed it to my supervisor and the Director of Doctoral Studies in the department and asked them if they knew anything about it. They couldn’t tell me much.It was rather puzzling that I got to be featured in the Newsletter while having no remembrance of having written the words.
After getting home, I informed my dear wife who was of the view that I should get to the bottom of this mystery and find out exactly how this came about. But, there so much going on with teaching and revising my PhD thesis based on the feedback from my supervisor. I did not have the space in my head to bother about the mysterious summary. After all, I thought to myself, there is no harm in having this summary that looks impressive. It was about a week later that I suddenly had an eureka moment. It was one evening at home while I was rearranging my desk that the light bulb went on in my head. As I moved old papers aside, I sighted the green cover of the Newsletter. At that moment, it dawned on me! I had the clarity that had eluded me a week earlier. It became clear that I had indeed written that summary myself. I checked out my email to be doubly certain and sure enough, the evidence was there. It was the PR and Marketing administrator at the departmental office who sent me an email in early May saying he wanted to feature my research in the Newsletter. He asked if I could write a short policy-focused summary of my research which I indeed did. I realised that I had actually written the summary while I was on a research visit to the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management at the University of Surrey between end-May and early-June, 2016. The question is: how could I have forgotten about this? Why did I not recognise my own writing of just over four months old? It was both funny and troubling when I had that eureka moment.
The main reason I could come up with was that my brains were toasted from the teaching at Lincoln in addition to the distance I gave myself away from the PhD. It felt like I have been so consumed with detailed work on specific aspects of the thesis and that I have just lost the big picture. It was pretty hard for me to carve out mental space to think of the thesis as a whole without the intrusion of thoughts of what still needed done for the next lecture, the next seminar or the student email I had to respond to. I am now a bit better at segmenting brain space so that I can concentrate on the thesis work on certain days and at certain times and then fully focusing on my lectureship duties for the rest of the time. At this moment, I can sort of see the light at the end of the tunnel and look forward to 1st December, 2016!