I should be doing work-work, but right now I can’t wrap my head around it, so I’m going to write here for a few minutes.
I had a long, good, helpful conversation with a friend last night that really helped me to examine a lot of my questions, struggles and frustrations with the program. She told me about her own experience being heavily courted for the program, and how it immediately wasn’t what she expected or wanted. She’s now in the dissertation proposal phase, and feels it’s really too late to turn back, but encouraged me to deeply consider my options both here and elsewhere, and not be overly swayed by other people’s ambitions or goals or plans for my own career.
Every hour that I spend in class leaves me feeling more frustrated, angry, and confused about why I’m here. I am, as my friend said, learning more about my interests by doing my job than I am (or would be) from sitting in classes where I’m told how other people think my job should be done. I’ve had a fundamentally awesome working experience since joining the program in 2005; my experience in my courses has been much more mixed. Some classes have piqued my interests, and others have left me wanting to bang my head on a wall. When I first weighed my options – PhD or professional job – I was sold on the idea that if I went straight into a job, I would miss out on the opportunity to do interesting research and to continue to learn. That has not been the case – though I do know that my job situation is somewhat exceptional.
In all honesty, I feel like I’d be better able to do my job if I weren’t trying to pursue this degree. I’d be able to be a better partner if I wasn’t stressed out all the time about classes. I’d be better able to take care of my body if I didn’t come home from work completely drained with a pile of reading ahead of me. I remember calling my mom at about this time last year and crying with frustration because my body was manifesting a bunch of stress-related problems – and she said that I might just have to make the choice between getting a PhD and being healthy.
I don’t know what I’ll end up doing in the weeks and months to come, but I’m thinking long and hard about all of this. Last night’s conversation left me in a place where I think I’m comfortable with whatever I decide. There are a lot of things that make this decision difficult, but most of them aren’t related to the program or the degree at all, and those are things I need to keep in mind as I weigh my options. Thank you for your patience, friends.