Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Just do it.

I want another glass of wine.

But I have come to the age that when I have another glass of wine, sometimes it gives me weird dreams, sometimes I can't sleep well, or sometimes I don't sleep at all. When did that happen? And while we're on the subject, when did I get so many grey hairs? Last February, Mike and I were at the Louvre- ON VALENTINES DAY- standing in line, waiting to get in, and he looks at me lovingly and says 'You've got more grey hair now. I just saw a new one.' not in a snarkey way, just in a really lovey, kind way. I laughed. Cause what else do you do in that situation?

I am feeling very... intense about my PhD lately. I have absolutely no perspective on it. Everything about it is life or death. I mean, cognitively, I know it isn't. But whenever I have an advisory meeting, or have to turn in a paper or chapter I have this uncontrollable emotional reaction. I don't really understand where it's coming from. I'll be talking about the design of my next study, and then suddenly be all teary, worrying about whether or not it'll work, and how am I going to write this, and how the eff am I going to defend this in my viva?? I guess that's what this process is about, but I find the constant fear life sucking. The PhD is such an ego-centric exercize. All of it is "how am I going to (fill in the blank)?" not we. Not us. Not team. Just me. ME defending MYSELF and MY IDEAS. I really genuinely don't like that. I don't do well in an environment that is centered on me. I really don't enjoy that attention. I don't want it, and I don't want to be that person. Plus, I don't think that's what life is actually like. I really hope not, anyway. That's for another post, though.

And, really? Really?? This is what I am going to spend my time worrying about? I mean, my life is pretty freakin great. How is it that I spend so much of my mental energy worrying about this?

I was called my dad the other night. I told him I needed a pep talk. I told him that I hate my PhD right now, I am sick of not knowing what I am doing, I really don't understand the minutia of research, and most of all, I DON'T CARE. I just want to help. I just want to be done with this and move on. I want to do something that matters, not format my chapters with 1 inch margins, and headers and footers and my page numbers in the RIGHT corner (cause god forbid they're in the left!).

And you know what he said? He said, Sarah. Get. Over. It. You have to do this. You have to finish. You can't be a swashbuckler until you're a sailor (how awesome is that metaphor??). He said, you just have to tick the boxes and do what you're told. You have to format your papers and you have to get over your hesitations. You will do good, but you have to do this first. Just finish. Head down. Remember why you're doing this. Just finish.

This advice is very interesting, especially coming from my dad. My father is one of the most passionate, go-all-out people that I've ever met. He can't half-ass anything. It's not in his blood. And for him to tell me to just move forward and finish was really eye opening. So, he's not telling me to half-ass this, but he's telling me to get over it and just do it. Stop questioning every little bit. Put the blinders on and keep your head down for the next 10 months. And finish.

I guess I always thought that this process would be one in which the things that I thought and believed would be confirmed and that I could move forward confident in my own ideas and my own well-formed, well-articulated, theoretically-grounded positions.  I don't know how I didn't realize how naive this is... And not just about research. About life, about friendship, about what it is that I actually like to do, about being a grown up.

The thing I've learned, more than anything else during this PhD is exactly how little I do know. 

I've also learned that a little perspective can go a long way. Not that I, in any way, have this mastered. I most certainly do not. But it's like the grey hair. It's coming. And no matter what I do, it'll be there. And I suppose the thing is to accept it, and just move on. With the PhD, it really is just a matter of finishing. The best PhD is a finished PhD. Head down. Just do it. Cause what else do you do in that situation?

1 comment:

  1. One of your many fabulous strengths is your passion--you have a great ability to remember why ideas are important and how they can make the world better for people. I think what you're experiencing here is the dark side of that--passion was never really compatible with the university system. Just remember that the PhD is the process, not the goal. You will do amazing things, but you have to make the bastards give you the piece of paper first. Then have another glass of wine.