Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A letter to my PhD

Dear PhD,

Today, I have come closest to the point of breaking up with you. I call it a break up because I have considered it a relationship, perhaps a longstanding, serious, intimate and the most meaningful relationship I have ever had. At some point in life, I decided that I want to spend most of my time in the pursuit of acquiring knowledge and wisdom. I could have been a journalist, a doctor, or a lawyer, but I decided I wanted to do hardcore research, and teach as well. Hence, I started training to be a professor. When I was done with my previous job, I had a few lucrative options. I could have found another job in the US. I could have moved to India. I could have done any number of things. Yet I decided to do a PhD. I decided to give it a second chance, since I had already opted out of PhD once a few years ago. Yet somewhere deep down, I hoped that I would once again enter the research arena. So, I chose you over a job. I readjusted to living on a meager salary, roughly one-third of what I was used to earning. I moved cross-country and tried adjusting myself to a completely different city, field, and work culture. The first year, I was on a roll. I finished my preliminary exam and passed my qualifiers 6 months in advance. I had three more steps to clear, and two more years to do it. However, the disillusionment started to set in the second year. The PhD trajectory became a curved tube I was stuck in the middle of, so that I could no longer see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was taking four courses, doing research, TAing, and traveling. I was learning new statistical software, learning to code, and trying to be as productive as I could. That was when I started to burn out and disillusionment set in. I have never been a good test taker, or a person who works well under pressure. Perhaps as it happens in some relationships (I don’t know, enlighten me), I started to question the meaning of it. I started to wonder about how what I learned would fit in the bigger scheme of things. I was overworked, tired, low on sleep, but more than most things, I started to question the value of all of it. So I had the write this post.

I wrote this post because just like a relationship, I still love you, although I have had my moments of doubt. You are my priority, and I will try my best to ensure we stick it out together. I start my day thinking of all the things I could do in research, and go to sleep planning my next day of work. But like all relationships, things are never perfect and happy all the time. We have our lows, or periods of doubt, times like these when we question the necessity of it. I wrote this post so that someday when in doubt, I will read this and know how much I have wanted you, and how important it is for me to do what I am doing right now. I write this so that someday when you and I have come a long way together after years of partnership, I can look back on times like these when I doubted my abilities to do anything meaningful, and know that I was wrong. I will know that although I have had my moments and thoughts of breakup, I would never actually do it. Yes, I am having a low moment right now, especially since I need to teach a class tomorrow and send revisions for papers by the end of this week and a dozen other things, but this moment shall pass. I know I will be back to my old self when you were my priority, and continue to do some kickass research which will make our future meaningful.

With love,

A sincere PhD student.

5 comments:

alpine path said...

Just lovely! Hang in there and I'm sure you'll pull out fine. Sending some cyber love and hugs! :)

alpine path said...

Just lovely! Hang in there and I'm sure you'll pull out fine. Sending some cyber love and hugs! :)

Biddu said...

Take a deep breath, talk to some close friend, have a glass of your favorite wine, order some pizzas, listen to good music, reminisce moments of academic achievements....and so on :)

Ram said...

Best wishes on all your efforts, time sure passes on. It's interesting reading your blogs on real life. I can pass some health links if interested, let me know.

jenibug said...

I was Googling my blog name when I found your blog and this post. I am currently applying to Doctorate programs and I am also wondering if it's worth it. Thank you for your post! It reveals to me the reality of what graduate school is going to be like.