Thursday, May 26, 2011

Grad school blues, redux

Most of my reasons for wanting the PhD are superficial.  I've put so much time in.  I'm almost ABD and then "all" I'd have left is my dissertation.  I want to prove I'm smart enough to add those letters to my CV, compounded by the fact that there are so many PhDs in our town.

Then there are the reasons that carry a little more weight.  I would earn more as a teacher.  Not a lot more each year, but it would add up over the time I intend to spend in this profession.  And the one with the most heft--my dissertation idea continues to form and mature, and sometimes I wonder if its insistence on existing will ever let me go until it's written down.

But I should listen to my body too, right?  My back and shoulders are one giant knot of tension.  My left trapezius is in perpetual spasm.  I'm hunched over far too much.  And I can't deny that when I think of leaving this degree behind, an immediate sense of relief washes over me.  I think of the things I would do with this time--reading for pleasure, giving the dog more attention, turning my attention from the computer to my kids, doing more bookbinding, taming the accumulation of books and papers I don't particularly care for--and I'm happy.

I'm staring at a new set of revisions.  My initial impulse is to chuck it all, instead of another week or two of killing myself to get this all done so I can stay on track for my current set of deadlines.  It doesn't help that J. is fighting his second ear and sinus infection since getting ear-tubes and that the sleep deprivation continues unabated.  How different would all of this be if I'd had a decent night's sleep in the past two years?  I'm tempted to say that I should wait to make my decision on pushing ahead or throwing in the towel until I'm better rested, but when will that be?  Certainly not before I hit the next deadlines.  So I'm stuck making the call--dogged pursuit of knowledge for another year or take the time for myself now--with what limited cognitive functioning I currently have available.

5 comments:

alejna said...

Wow. This sounds so very familiar. I am very much in the same boat. I'm also almost ABD, but apparently lacking the sustained cognitive function to make it over the remaining hurdles in any sort of reasonable amount of time. (I've been a grad student a ridiculous amount of time.) I also really want to finish, and get those letters after my name, but at the same time miss having time to do fun things when I am not riddled with guilt for not working on my research.

So, what I mean to say is: I hear ya.

Aliki2006 said...

I am so sorry you're living all this hell right now...I wanted desperately to finish, too, but in the end I gave it up, as you know. It was sucking me dry. I am the only one in my family without those letters--by mom, my dad, my siblings AND their spouses all have their Ph.D degrees, but I have made peace with that. Try and pace yourself, if you can--take a rest, a break, and reassess from there. Nothing is worth eroding your physical and mental health over...

Mouse said...

I've spent about two weeks away from my work now, and the compulsion to think about my topic has lessened, so I know that will get better. There's still a tiny piece of me that thinks I would take a leave if allowed to. But given a straight stay or leave choice, I think that leave is the right one.

For what it's worth, Aliki, it has really helped me to realize that any additional progress on my degree would not mean any real growth in my intelligence or even in my knowledge base. Everything from here on out would be refinement only.

Vanesa said...

Interesting post, thanks

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post, thanks