The PhD voice

5 Lessons from The Bold Type for my PhD (and life)

(Feature image credits: Freeform)

Hi all! So yeah, in September I almost didn’t write, that’s too bad! Between coming back from vacation, investing on meetings and conferences (including a huge all nighter like I didn’t do in ages!), going for my first solo trip in North America to Montreal, Canada, and enjoying the last days of Summer (it’s gone now! Today it rained cats and dogs in Boston!), I wanted to make sure I was back on the right mindset to work. And that also means maybe some TV series time to unwind, no? This September was definitely a turning point in my life where lots of things happened, and one thing that inspired me to go for these changes was watching all the 10 episodes of the Freeform TV series, The Bold Type. Say what?

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I have to reveal a secret probably most women my age won’t share with me. I don’t really like Sex and the City. Period. Even though I think it was a very important series for women emancipation, I don’t review myself in the aesthetics and the dynamics of the friendships and the love stories. The Bold Type is a series also set in NYC, with fashionable ladies and a strong friendship. So, that’s why I was a bit skeptical to check this series out when I started watching billboards everywhere in Cambridge. Anyway, I was inspired to check it out after I read Raquel’s post (in Portuguese) about the series. One evening, without nothing better to do while I was up late running simulations, I gave it a try. Surprisingly, I was hooked. I watched 3 episodes the same night and watched the full season in a week. And so many things from the series clicked! It is not the chick flick cliché and, while it is cute and tongue in cheek, it touches quite deep topics.

The series revolves about the lives of three 25-ish girls working for Scarlet magazine: Jane, a new staff writer; Kat, the social media director; and Sutton, an assistant looking for an opportunity in the fashion department. The editor-in-chief, Jacqueline, is an incredibly kind #girlboss who breaks the stereotypes that women in leadership need to be bossy and mean. But let’s talk about this a bit later. So now, I want to tell you why this series rang so true to me and inspired me to make some changes in my life, PhD and the rest notwithstanding.

1. It’s OK to not have everything figured out about you by mid-20’s. Just approach things with curiosity.

This is something that Kat inspired me to think about. Kat is the most confident and wealthy of the three girls, and I love her style, which is similar to mine. However, she faces a huge change in her life when she meets Adena, a lesbian Muslim artist, and falls in love with her, starting out conflicted by the fact she had been hetero all her life. The relationship with the adventurous Adena leads Kat to question how safe she has been living her life (despite her stubborn ways) and become more curious about travel, immigration issues, among others. For me, the most inspiring thing about this character was that, even though I’m halfway through my PhD and am struggling a bit to see how things are going to work out for me, I can be curious about different possibilities and to fight for what I believe in my work. Which led me to another lession later on this post.

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2. You should go fight for the job (and life) of your dreams. But don’t fall short of what you deserve.

This is what Sutton most rings true to me about. At first, this character didn’t really click with me, but seeing her struggle with getting out of the assistant job at the hands of the difficult Lauren, to then get a dream job in fashion only to then learn she was going to earn less than before, made me really like her. After her friends reassured her they wouldn’t leave her struggling if her new boss wouldn’t agree with the negotiation to have some additional job perks, she fought and got them. You can also see her grit on how she handles the relationship with Richard, a lawyer and board member. I can tell a personal story that happened after the negotiation episode. There was a particular situation when I was feeling stepped on my toes and feeling I could be given more responsibility and respect. Sutton’s negotiation scene gave me the courage to tell the person how I felt about the matter. The person apologized and the attitude changed completely, so we can collaborate much better. So, a little courage can go a long way!

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3. Sometimes you are given tasks that you don’t think you can accomplish. But go for them while being yourself.

Jane is the character I can relate the most to. Probably because she’s the writer of the series, but also for other reasons. So, in the series we see her evolution from an insecure writer, trying to approach the hard (and personal) articles that Jacqueline gives her in a very methodical way, while the thing that would truly make the articles outstanding was writing from her heart and with her own voice. This leads her to great heights, like being invited to a panel on politics engagement that she felt she was not adequate to be at yet. While feeling she had nothing to say, what she said was highly praised upon. For me, I know very surely that if I don’t work and lead my life from the heart, the outcome is not that great. And I think I was forgetting a bit my heart in my work. So I went for bold decisions this month. I realized that probably, after my PhD, something I would like to try is medical or scientific writing. I really like the writing part of science most people dread. So, at the last conference I’ve been to, I made sure I was attending a panel on journalism on life sciences. After I asked a question on the topic of discussion that really interested me, I asked the journalists on advice on how to start on the field and to share their experiences. I will definitely learn more on the topic, but I’m fortunate to say I had an editorial out on a network on my field of research out this month, which is already a major leap forward!

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4. Whenever you’re leading, make sure to be kind. It will make everyone respect you more.

Jacqueline is a hell of a character. I could be a boss like her someday, but wearing sneakers. She fights for her company and gives good advice to her employees, while also not taking any crap from either the board or employees that are not living up to the expectations. Still, when people she believes in have a moment, she gives them time and forgives. I can say being in a leadership position is something I’m not a natural at. I tried to lead groups I’ve volunteered at and I always ended up stressed out. But I like this approach to leadership. And I’m fortunate to have two supervisors like Jacqueline. They always said that I should put my career development in first place, and were supportive whenever I had a problem and believe in me, even when the perfectionist in me thinks I’m underperforming.

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5. Just have fun doing what you’re doing!

Yeah, I know. Often, PhD life is not that fun. Lots of deadlines, sleepless nights, doubting yourself, and maybe sometimes people who are not that kind to you. I know all that. And I’m a very process oriented person, I like to have it all. But it helps to engage into fun activities, analogous to going into the closet to talk about things and share how things have been going. Or chatting to someone nice in the elevator. Work doesn’t have to be at all boring, and you can defy a little the typical ways. Has this PhD, and particularly the stay in the USA, been easy? Not at all. But I’ve learned here to have more fun in the process. This year has been fun, with all the ups and downs.

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With all that being said, there’s much more to this series that I didn’t talk about. Even important social issues. The connections I found with my PhD made me think. There’s no series, that I’m aware of, about the life of graduate students. We all know The Big Bang Theory (which I still love), but their characters are a bit older. And there’s Community about a crazy community college. But would a series based on the PhD life be relevant? I think so, there would be so much things to plot and would create more awareness on the struggles of young researchers. Do you agree with me? Let me know!

Did you also love The Bold Type? Or what are other TV Shows that inspired you to be more bold in your work? Let me know! In the meantime, don’t forget to follow my journey around my PhD in the US in FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest to keep up to date!

Cátia

2 thoughts on “5 Lessons from The Bold Type for my PhD (and life)

  1. Adorei ver como interpretaste a série à luz do teu Phd. Consigo identificar-me com a maneira como abordas as lições que aprendeste . Estou ansiosa pela próxima temporada!

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