It’s been so long since I’ve written that WordPress has another update available. One of the main reasons for my absence has been paralysis. I have had a lot on my mind, and something that has been coming up to the forefront has been my persistent uncertainty that the life of an academic is the life for me. Expressing this doubt is very taboo while still desiring to be counted among the ranks of academe, but maybe this blog would benefit from some honesty.
This kind of straightforward consideration of what exactly I will gain from completing my degree will most likely be looked upon by my superiors and even my peers as an unwise admission of my instability at this point in my career, but this is such a large issue in my life right now, and one of the underpinning principles of my field is that writing promotes thinking and understanding. Hopefully I can help this come to fruition. Another guiding principle, though, is that a writer should know her audience. Since anyone can access this blog and I don’t really know who may be reading, I feel like sometimes the writing here takes an antiseptic quality, sanitized of all real worry or doubt and concerned mostly with putting my best foot forward for when I go on the market, an endeavor made so formidable by everyone who has gone before that anything which may put my reputation in jeopardy is regarded with suspicious paranoia and is generally quickly cleaned up or hidden.
I have been trying to read for my exams now for about 8 months. I have read so little that I almost can’t believe it. I feel so overwhelmed by the process that any intellectual progress (or any progress at all) has ground to a complete halt. Putting that down into words is difficult and embarrassing. The monster of doubt is asking me if I really want to publish these sentences or if I should discard this draft and make an appointment with a therapist instead. But I know I am not the only one. I know that these feelings are pervasive and that they have the power to cripple bright, promising people under the weight of prohibitive tradition, and perhaps one of those reasons is because so few of us feel at liberty to disclose just how trapped and confused we feel.
The schedule and pace of academia doesn’t work for me. I feel so absurd saying that, since what we have are big, open spaces to design and accomplish big, complicated tasks. Saying it doesn’t work for me feels like an admission that I am poor at managing my own time. But yet, this seems to be the truth. I do well with a busy, structured schedule. I’ve never been very good at creating such a structure on my own. I feel like a failure, a product of a hegemonic system which can’t function well outside the parameters that I have been brought up to value. But I can’t deny what has been happening to me: as I move further along in higher education, I have become worse, not better, at managing and meeting deadlines. I have experienced disappointments that I would have never allowed to happen in my younger years, when I seemed to be able to successfully juggle many more tasks and work a full time job to boot.
I’ve been talking about quitting since the second year of my master’s program. I have put this decision aside countless times as I struggle with what it is I really want out of this pursuit. I’ve created deadlines by which I said I’d assess the situation more, and those deadlines have passed (like so many others). The inertia is killing me. I want to take my exams, but mostly because I am supposed to take them, because it is the next step in the process. I’ve been elected the Secretary of the GSO for the next academic year, so I feel compelled to stay for that experience, but I need to ask myself whether I can do this for another 12 months of my life. The answer is always, “You Have To.” All of the constraints I’ve set up mandate that it must be so. But is this what I really want?
I have enrolled in a six week Conscious Career Course to help me explore my options and to talk with other people who find themselves in a similar situation. I am hoping that this will have a positive impact on my outlook and will empower me develop a plan should I ever go through with pulling the plug on grad school and turn my attentions elsewhere. The first meeting is June 12th. It’s possible that the course, which also claims to help put academic pursuits into perspective, might even inspire me to get my ass moving on my exam reading. I do think completing the PhD would be a success. I am just not sure whether it will be essential to the career I ultimately choose, which makes me question whether all of the suffering is worth it.
Even admitting that this experience contains a healthy dose of suffering is another one of those sentiments that seems to beg for a swab of antiseptic, to be doused with a solution that will stop the growth of the negative bacteria that threatens to devour what I’ve worked so hard to achieve so far. But I’m going to let it fester here on the page, going to admit that big parts of me are suffering because of the path I have chosen. Eventually I’ll have to move out of this position; let’s see if I can maybe write my way out. I plan to use this space to document my progress through the course. Might as well, since it hasn’t been being used for much else lately. Ergo, tally ho. Let’s see if I can get to healing these wounds.