Monday, April 9, 2012

Winter Of My Discontent

I am a big believer that if your life is not going as you hoped, then you should try to change it in some way.  Make a new friend, take up a new hobby, change up your routine or, if necessary, take steps to make a significant impact on how the course of events pan out.

If you look at my activities since starting my PhD, you may notice a few stark moments of "change".  When I first came to UVa, I jumped into one service activity, one academic-related activity, and a few church-related activities.  After about two years, I dropped all of it.  A few months later, I picked up a different service activity, a different academic-related activity, and a different church-related activity.  A few years later, again, those all fell by the wayside in a personal effort to adjust my situation.  It's been one and a half years since I picked up the latest in service activity, academic related activity and church-related activity and I'm about ready to call quits on it all again.

The funny thing is, I can change the things I do in my off hours but somehow all my efforts are unable to make a real impact in the one thing that I have struggled with the most: obtaining my PhD.   I've doubled my efforts; I've given up a million time and re-started a million and one times.  I've talked to people, gotten advice, received help, tried to figure things out on my own, read textbooks, taught myself programs and equipment use.  I've used scientific reasoning to come to answers, worked through detailed plans, fiddled around when that didn't work and gone with my gut instinct.  I know my lab about as well as anyone can know a lab - even though I'm still learning exactly how many problems one experiment can have - and still at a loss how to make it all work at the same time.  I've pleaded and prayed.  I've fought and screamed.  I've been humbled and gained hope to try again.  It's been an exhausting six years.  I'm ready to be done.  But until I have data and results, I'm here.  For some undisclosed amount of time.

How easy it would be to walk away from it all, even if that means spending six years on something only to not get a degree.  Even if that means never going to Japan.  Even if that means never becoming the person I want to become.

I'm tired, bereft of energy, motivation and funding.  And still no respite is in sight.  I'm asked on a daily basis now, "When are you graduating?"  If only I knew.  Please no more questions, no more looks of disappointment - they can't compare to what I see every morning and evening looking back at me in my mirror.  I just want to fail in peace.  I just want to walk away.

So, why can't I?  Why do I stay on, buckling under the pressure of a frustrated adviser, a frustrated lab colleague and a frustrated graduate program?

Is it because deep down, I really think that I still succeed?

Laughable really, since they say someone who does the same thing over and over and expects different results is insane and I've been doing the same thing now for a few years.

Spring has come to Charlottesville.  When will mine arrive?

1 comment:

  1. I love you! I think you are hard on yourself. I also think you've done a lot of absolutely amazing things. I think you'll get your PhD if that's what you really want (and I think it is). Don't worry. I will not ever again ask when you are graduating, I will just wait until you know and announce it. ;)

    P.S. You can call me anytime, if you need someone to talk to or want someone to talk to. I miss you.