‘I feel I should be angry… but I’m too exhausted’: full-time academic, part-time PhD…

This post is by Associate Professor Evonne Miller, Director of Research Training, Creative Industries Faculty, Queensland University of Technology.

This is for my friends, colleagues and students who are in ‘a world of thesis pain’  – as your supervisors, we do get it. It is especially for those who are completing their PhD while working full-time in another role. Being a part time PhD student – and balancing multiple other responsibilities (work, home, family, life etc) – makes life really busy. Your PhD sometimes is the last thing in your to do list. As your supervisor, we do get it (but we will also always push you to keep focussed on your PhD and the end goal – that’s our job!).

I hope this poem, written by Coralie McCormack* (as part of her PhD in 2001; she was working as an academic while doing a PhD) might help our part-time PhD students  feel less alone…. reading it, the sense of being busy and tired in an academic role really resonated with me.

‘I feel I should be angry… but I’m too exhausted’

I feel I should be angry…

But I’m too exhausted.


Haven’t you finished your thesis yet?

I can’t believe he

has asked me this question.

what does he think

I have been doing for the last five years



Full-time academic work

Which means a ten hour day

Six days a week

In not so busy times.

And twelve hour days

Seven days a week

In peak times


Facilitating, forming networks

Counselling, co-ordinating

Consulting, convening

Supporting, sharing

Encouraging, enhancing

Empowering Others

All part of my academic day.


Then home to

Partners, parenting

Preparing food

Eating food

Cleaning up

Cleaning down



Physical exhaustion

But mind whirring

The hoped for restful night

Slips quickly and effortlessly

Out the window

To visit someone else.



I feel I should be angry…

But I’m too exhausted.


I put the phone down

I can’t believe he said that


I feel I should be angry…

But I’m too exhausted.

Roll on study leave

The chance to work on my thesis full-time

What a luxury!

Six months of leave

Six months of writing

Six months of leisure


I feel I should be angry

I have worked hard and long

To earn this six months

I am entitled to it.


I feel I should be angry

I shouldn’t be exhausted

But I am.

Coralie McCormack  


Reference: Coralie McCormack. 2001.  The times of our lives: Women, leisure and postgraduate research. Unpublished Phd Thesis, University of Wollongong. 

*FYI, I recently stumbled across Coralie’s thesis and had to share her poem – it resonated with me, as several close friends are currently in this exact situation. I tried to reach out to Coralie to let her know her 2001 PhD work  is still wonderfully inspirational and relevant now – but have been unable to locate an active email address. I believe she is/was Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Canberra in education /  learning and teaching.. if anyone knows her, please forward her this post and ask her to contact me so I can personally praise her work.  

And watch this space – I hope to share more of Coralie’s inspirational poetic work again soon…  or ask her to write something new for us! Note, due to length, I have excluded a less revenant (for this topic) stanza of this poem. 

Image is of water, storm clouds, mountains and sky, taken by a talented friend and photographer Neil Burton.  It is Bruny Island looking across to Cygnet – December 2016.


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