A milestone was achieved in my driving history yesterday. I drove a record of 300 miles in 5 hours, crossing a few major east coast cities, non-stop. This was my first long drive on the east coast, and once I started from New Jersey in the morning, I didn’t stop for once till I reached my destination. Not even a restroom break or a refueling break.
I think driving gives you an amazing perspective about things. There you are sitting controlling the wheel, accelerating, and occasionally braking. It is tiring, but not demanding. For most of my drive on I-95, I was driving at 80 mph. I am telling you all this because this is a first time achievement for me. As I drove from 9 am to 2 pm non-stop, cruising through all the cities and stopping only to pay the toll four times, I got a lot of time to think about things. I started to think about my PhD differently. In some ways, I think I should treat my PhD just like this drive. Start with a plan, be focused, and don’t stop till you have reached your destination. There would be obstacles and wonderful distractions, big cities and lovely places to stop by, but if your goal is to reach home by 2 pm, you would neither think of getting off the freeway near Philadelphia to visit the city, or briefly stop at Baltimore to meet that long lost friend you promised you will meet 5 years ago. Throughout the drive, I focused on being at the leftmost (fastest) lane, passing (overtaking) other cars, and making sure the cops didn’t catch me for driving constantly at 15 mph above speed limit. I didn’t make resolutions that I would not stop and instead make the trip in 5 hours. Instead, all I told myself is I will keep going till I could physically and mentally do it, drive safe, and see how much I can go before I need a break. The estimated arrival time on the GPS kept pushing me for doing better and shortening the time.
All this might mean nothing to you, and it totally makes sense if it doesn’t. Just that ever since I made that trip yesterday, I am on a high. I feel elated, and a strange sense of achievement. Last year this time I could not drive from Seattle to Portland on my own (a 3 hour trip, 180 miles in all maybe). This year I have broken all of my past driving records. And ever since, I have been comparing that journey to the PhD journey I have recently embarked on. Now all this is theory, and there is always a huge difference between theory and implementation. Yet it never hurts to analyze and surmise.