Monday, August 18, 2008

New Year Career Crisis

Two weeks ago, I was not entirely successful in my struggles not to cry in the middle of a presentation directly relevant to the current section of my comps paper. For most of the past week, I have had an intense urge to either put my head down and cry onto my keyboard every time I have received the latest draft of four of the five papers I'm co-authoring. Diagnosis can go one of three ways:

1. Depression is rampant in our society, and every member of my immediate family (except maybe one sister) has been on medication for depression or manic depression at one point or another. I msyelf have a dubious diagnosis of depression hanging over from my freshman year of college. Perhaps it is time for professional help in regards to regulating neurochemicals.

2. Workaholicism also runs rampant in society and in my family. The pressure to get two abstracts submitted by Friday, two papers submitted before Advisor's impending delivery, help a student with her paper before that deadline, and get through a huge hurdle of my comps paper before Advisor's impending delivery, while attending two major multi-day conference/workshop sessions in two weeks and organizing the new TA orientation, has created an overabundance in stress. I spent too much of the past week and weekend working (i.e., pretty much all of it, aside from ~2 hours of exercise or leisure reading each day), and have no reserves left from my day at the beach in San Diego. I need to take a day away from campus, email, my work laptop, and reading in general.

3. What the fuck am I doing in graduate school? Progress is stalled on my comps because I have no interest in tackling the huge theoretical debate I have to tackle, but everyone else finds this interesting and worthwhile (it was the participant debate that set me off at the presentation). Endless drafts and post-review revisions and trying to write three papers on the same research is what academia is all about, so I should be thrilled to have so many studies worthy of submitting after the dearth of worthy reserach my first two years. Obviously I'm not cut out for this. Perhaps I should consider a brand new career path, maybe flipping burgers.

Deeper consideration suggests it can't just be #3. I'm giving myself a pass on my comps problems, because the huge theoretical debate is addressed in my comps only as a stumbling block: "if this take is correct, we can look at this cool manipulation; if not, well...". I would be totally into my comps if they would have just let me say #(*% the debate, it's not going to get resolved, and the evidence in favor the useful take is convincing enough to proceed. There are reasons I'm stuck with four drafts on the same idea (revisions to a publication I wasn't even part of are half of them) that are unlikely to repeat at any other point in my career (please!). There has been an ongoing career crisis in that direction for the past year or so, however.

Addressing the work overload is difficult. Thanks to comps, there's always something that needs to be done pressing on the back of my mind, so it's a matter of just ditching work rather than getting to a good stopping place. Re-evaluating assorted commitments means Friday, and probably Saturday, are now Grad Student Skip Days. My newly re-validated bus pass and I are taking off for anywhere not here. I am turning off the computers, ignoring the books, and either getting some sunshine or getting some expensive sugar.

Addressing the career crisis is less difficult. A very timely email has pointed me to a "Turning Points" career workshops just for graduate students. I will totally pay $60 for a six-week course on figuring out what I want to be when I grow up and how to be it. (Mild paranoia that three more people won't sign up to meet the 10-person minimum is adding to my stress load, however). And, I've enrolled in an entirely irrelevant education course I know nothing about (the title is probably Religion, Spirituality & Education, but abbreviations make it diffiuclt to tell) becuase I'd already maxed out tuition and fees anyway, so it's free!. Technically this adds to my workload, but the possibility of having non-optional chores with absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with my research is well worth it.

And, this day is ending early. There is absolutely nothing I have to do that is better off being done today poorly than tomorrow (hopefully) rejuvenated.

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