PhD Bite 3: Taiwo Ilori

In our third PhD Bite, Taiwo offers a poetic reflection on the PhD journeytaiwo-picture

…end of 3rd year

I look at you
with anger… love… frustration
my emotions every which way… all over the place

I stare at you
from afar
a wide gulf between us
content to stay that way
have no desire to close the gap
I am sat there… sipping my coffee
glancing at you surreptitiously from the corners of my eyes
not knowing if I should scream at you, throw something at you
or just keep looking at you with a bad eye

I stand now
tired of this game
of not knowing what to do with you
rooted to the spot, not willing to move an inch
the inch I finally move was just to grip the steel irons in front of me

don’t know if it was to push myself away, or pull forward
wanting to come forward… yet not wanting to

but we were friends once… once upon a time
Best of friends
I didn’t take to you well when we were first introduced
You were loud… oh so loud and noisy
People were always around you… in you
And for the sake of my sanity
I only come to visit once in a while
that I often forgot you existed
And things were meant to stay that way

…but then

one day, I came
and you were quiet… oh so quiet and peaceful
it was a Saturday morning
I couldn’t believe it
so you were more like me, I thought
you liked peaceful and quiet mornings
you like to be by yourself too
I didn’t know… never could have imagined that in a million years
we were old souls… both of us
quiet in the mornings… a little loud during the day
I understood your loudness now
as I am loud sometimes too… you see

instead of staying away… I stayed
I stayed when you were quiet, loud or noisy

I enjoyed it so much
that the 3 years were a blur
reading together, writing together, typing together
our relationship was filled with so much understanding that
I wrote my 40000 words with you easily
words so good that in 1year and a half
I left you for Nigeria for four months to gather data for my research
how we survived, I don’t know
I guess we may have needed the space
for you to welcome another old soul like me
or tolerate the noisy ones
and for me to get a whiff of summer
heat… rashes… and plan a wedding

I remembered coming to you
with the fears of my confirmation of candidature hanging over me
you comforted me the only way you could
you stayed quiet while I cried
and unburdened my fears and frustration in you
you didn’t offer to go hit my supervisors on the head
for putting me through this
neither did you tell me I should never had applied for a PhD
and that I could quit now if I wanted to
you knew the stakes were too high for me to just up and leave
so instead you stayed quiet
and offered me what you could
a chair… computer… and access to all the information I needed to get through this stage
you were quiet while I sat my butt down behind a computer
to think, write and come up with something awesome

I am handing in now
and I look at you again from a distance
I look… stare… glare… glower
I scowl… frown… I grimace… pout…
at you…
this room where I typed my words… nearly half of my thesis
heads bowed, fingers tapping away
for 3 years

why can’t I stand the sight of you?
is it the thought of the hardwork I know I am going to put in
the writings… rewritings… deletings… writings… I have to do
God… the thinking and more thinking… and then more thinking
until I come up with something to show for staying in/with you…

I really don’t know
and I know you don’t either
whatever it is
we need to find a way to repair it
because I need… we need
a few more weeks
to get through this
to complete this 80,000 words thesis

it won’t be long now
and we both go our separate ways
you will never see me again
nor I you
but right now
we really need to sort through what is going on between us

could you not accuse me
or point fingers at me

could you welcome me
as you did 3 years ago
as you did to those before me… and those who would come after me
would you welcome me
to almost the end
of this PhD journey

To all PhD students in whatever stage you are in…

*may the PhD room go with you


Taiwo Ilori is a PhD student at Anglia Ruskin University, UK. She is exploring the space between agency and desire in the process of learning English as a second language in Nigeria. She can be found on Facebook – and

LinkedIn –


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