Saturday, January 29, 2005


I really decompressed over the holidays, and it struck me once again how distressing I find the whole academic world now that I'm back. I went to a lecture by a professor on my committee, and just 5 minutes in I started feeling anxious. I have all sorts of thoughts from "my ideas are so brilliant and I need to put them out there now because no one seems to have realized these things" to "I am the most assinine graduate student ever and everyone thinks I'm a joke." I know that this crazy see-saw between feelings of competence and incompetence is normal. I've heard so many graduate students say that they feel like they are a fraud and are just waiting for someone to find them out. But then I feel worse, because they seem to really have their shit together. Or someone complains about having such a hard time with writing, and about how much they procrastinate, but I would consider myself ultra-productive if I got as much done as they did. I mean, I REALLY SUCK as a grad student.
So anyway, I started getting all sorts of feelings of anxiety....that my topic would have been great four years ago when I should have finished, that there are so many things I have analyses of that I think are good but I suck at expressing them, that I hate the insularity and pompousness that plague so many academics, that I've not published anything ever (or even sent anything out to get published), that I haven't done what I really wanted to do, because I was supposed to be doing my diss, which I didn't do either. I was thinking I came back all recharged and ready to tackle another semester and really get down to writing, and then the day after the lecture I find myself crying my eyes out when I'm about to meet with someone from my committee. Luckily she was late and I was able to stop crying before she got there. I just felt like such a massive failure yesterday, and about everything, not just grad school. I've put my whole life on hold for the past ten years for what was supposed to be this backup plan, and consequently I don't feel qualified to do anything else either. I'm in my 30s and still in school. I never took a year off (huge mistake). And maybe I've stayed in the university all this time because I was just afraid to really grab life by the balls and take a risk. Maybe that's why I keep on putting off finishing this damn thing. As much as I'm craving and looking forward to and dreaming about my freedom, maybe I'm just too afraid I'll be a massive failure at what I really want to do. It's a lot easier being a failure at what I never really wanted to do in the first place.


Blogger SquirrleyMojo said...

"You've Lost That Loving Feeling--ohohoh That Loving Feeling--Now It's Gone, Gone, Gone"

Hey--there is a way out: be an adjunct! Now talk about living limbo--woo, woo!

So glad I stumbled on your sweet sweet blog--I shall return, I shall return!

11:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ok, just stop beating yourself up. it doesn't do anything for you.

i'm somewhat concerned about your highs and lows..... one day superperson and the next the grime of the earth sounds like bipolar syndrome to me, and that can be bad in the long run, especially if it becomes 'normal' for you.

the key thing to remember is that, you are special in that you got this far, but not so special that you get a free ride.

you have one thing to do. it does not have to be perfect. it does have to be finished.

that is all, finish, that's all you have to do. heck, in my work, i've already seen that my work is parallel or similar to so many people that i rank it right up there with nothingness, but, my committee thinks different, why? i think it is 'context', but that's moot. the key thing is to work on it, and finish it. let the world judge then, because then you are done. and then you can fail if you want, but to fail once you've started something.... that is like swimming across the bay and deciding you'll quit halfway.... you drown. don't do that.

11:27 PM  
Blogger Porkorama said...

anonymous person--your comment makes me want to beat myself up for beating myself up.
Hell, I know you're right, and I'm not gonna argue with you about the manic-depressive shit, but this blog wouldn't really be what it is if I was cheerily "I wrote 20 pages today and I love life!!!" on it, now would it?
Uh...I was actually going to post something semi-positive today before I got sidetracked by blown fuses and grumpiness.
In any case, kick in the butt appreciated.

2:18 AM  
Blogger pecheur said...

I don't know if you are bipolar or anything, but I like coming here to relieve stress. It rocks. And you are right I don't come here to always read about the great times, I enjoy the down days also. It's cathartic for me.

BTW just a word of celebration. I got my two chapters of my Thesis turned in today. Happy happy Joy joy. I know that does not compare to a dissertation, but it is a small step of accomplishment for me.

Hang in there. i think you're great job by even thinking about doing a dissertation!

6:10 PM  
Blogger Porkorama said...

Congratulations Pecheur! I look forward to being able to say I'm done!

11:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am seeing this many months after it was originally published, but I feel like you typed the words I was thinking.

I don't know if I'll ever finish my dissertation, and I don't know if you've finished yours, but seeing that my feelings are not solely my feelings gives me the strength to try for one more day, or week, or month.

So thanks for being honest about the sheer and utter hell of it all.

4:47 PM  
Blogger Porkorama said...

Man, you don't know how much I appreciate that. Sometimes I wonder why I keep up this thing.... I haven't finished my dissertation, but for the first time, I'm working my ass off at it. I have good days and bad, but I've been doing this insane 8 to 10 hours a day work on it. Maybe it is the only way for me to finish. And the only reason I really "got to it" was because I got a deadline from the grad school and I had two months...suddenly the stress hit me. And then I realized that writing every day, which I had always somehow weasled out of, is the ANSWER. I'm slooow...on a very very very good day I write about 4-5 pages. Sometimes after 10 hours of work I get one page. If you read my recent entries you'll see I've had various crises of self-confidence. But I've picked myself up and kept on going...and I'm now past the point of no return. I have 150 pages which I never really believed I'd have. They're not great, but they're done. And I find that getting the stuff out there and then coming back to it a few days later helps. Maybe I'll write an actual entry about this....
In any case...all my anxieties are still there...but the best thing to do is go on. You can do it!! Really, if I, the worst grad student in the world can do it, anyone can! (I say I am the worst grad student in the world knowing it's an exaggeration--it's just that for years I didn't do a single drop of work.)
I'm rambling...

5:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok. My turn to chime in. I am working on a dissertation proposal for my Ed.D and it is a brutal experience. I have spent numerous hours working on this thing, and I will say that my approach is similar to yours. I go through rounds of spending 8-10 hours in a chair pounding away at my laptop and my head. Writing has never come easy for me, and as a result I hate doing it. I don't know if this helps you, but it helps me to know there are others out there just like me who are struggling with their dissertation.

Hang in there, maybe we can all get through this thing.

4:11 PM  
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