Monday, April 26, 2010

So it seems...

So it seems that the only way I am going to graduate with a PhD is if I cut out everything that I was even remotely interested in and focus entirely on bits I specifically did not want to write about.

And for what?

So that people can call me "doctor"?  That's a bit pompous.  Was I going to use it for anything other than slapping it on a business card?  I'm not planning on going into scholarship or academia.  I get physically ill at the thought.  Teaching is great, it's the rest of it I can't stand.  I might get paid a bit more as an archaeologist.  Except that experience is very important when hunting for a job in the field and of course, I can't get any more experience while I'm supposed to be finishing this thing.  (I had to use our extreme poverty as an excuse to go and work in Qatar and I've been going against my advisor for years when it comes to my digging in Israel and Jordan - if I listened to my committee I would never dig until after I got a degree.)   I might have better opportunities for jobs, except that having a PhD is a requirement for the jobs I don't want and not a requirement for the jobs I do.  It might help others get better grants.  And while I do love my colleagues very much, I'm no good to them if I have a complete mental breakdown over this.

I managed to finish a draft after hours of pain - tears, cramps, headaches, nightmares, bit lips, chewed off fingernails, stomach aches, nausea, acid reflux, heart palpitations and sleepless nights.  I shut off the bits of my head that told me what I was doing was pointless and stupid and wrote the biggest piles of poop I've ever written.  I can't actually read those chapters.  I have full on panic attacks when I think too much about them.

Those are the chapters my committee wants me to keep, of course.

The chapters I wrote, that I slaved over, the ones where I worked on the sentences until I can proudly step back and say, yes, I wrote that and I think it's pretty good.  The chapters that I can read without getting that horrible feeling in my chest... those are the ones they want me to throw out.  "Pointless" was one, unforgettable, comment.

I brought this up to my advisor, because I was rather upset about the whole thing and he told me to stop whining and complaining and that he should have thrown the book at me long ago.  Thanks, that was really helpful.  I'm glad you're here to advise me.

Can someone tell me why I'm doing this again?

Oh, yes, I wanted to be an archaeologist.

Wait a minute - I *am* an archaeologist!

I'm a PAID archaeologist!

Why the hell am I turning down opportunities to go do what I love to do so that I can sit at home surrounded by post-it notes, sobbing hysterically and clutching a German-English dictionary?!  Why do I keep having to send apology emails to my advisor because I'm miserable and need help and it's "getting on his nerves"?

What about my nerves?  I'm a wreck when it comes to this thing!  I'm sitting here sobbing NOW and all I'm doing is talking to you lot about it.

I don't need to prove that I'm smart.  I know I'm smart.  I don't need to prove anything.  Especially that I can write hundreds of pages of crap that I cannot defend.

(But it would be a funny defense.  Any question my committee would ask would have to be answered with "because you told me that if I didn't put it in here, I wouldn't graduate.  I personally think it's wrong and stupid, but what do I know?")

There's the usual, oh, but my dear, you've spent the last 10 years of your life working on this!  You can't just walk away now!!

If I'd spent $50,000 trying to get a $2,000 car working, you'd say I was an idiot, right?  And you'd tell me to stop throwing good money after bad, right?

I've got one life to live here, folks.  One life.  Every year I spend doing what I hate, and paying to do it, mind - we've been paying to keep me enrolled for 5 years now - is another year gone.  And I will NEVER get it back.  Money is just money.  This is my life I'm spending.

Instead of sitting in a library, trying to find every last different meaning for representations of fish in the 3rd century CE (there are a lot, and by the way, I think that there is an interesting relationship between images of acquiring food and images of food itself and that someone might make a really interesting dissertation out of it... I'd rather kill myself that write it, but if you are interested I will totally tell you all about it and *you* can write it), I could be out trying to get jobs in the field.  I could be going to conferences and meeting up with people and making contacts and exploring other things I may be interested in.  I could be enjoying life EVERY DAY instead of just the days I decide that I can't possibly be asked to try to work on this horrible horrible pile of crap.

I remember feeling like this before.  It was in my last marriage and every conversation we were having about why I was unhappy had to do with me not trying hard enough and not compromising enough.  All I did when we were together was cry.  And feel stupid and unworthy of his attention.  Leaving him was the best thing I ever did.  I learned that love is about loving the person that you are and the person you are with for who you and they are RIGHT NOW.  Not who you want to be or who you want them to be.

That was sort of a non sequitur, but that was also major depression that resulted in some heavy medication that gave me the courage to just go off and do what I really wanted to do for once... still non sequituring.... but the point being, I don't want to be that depressed again.  It sucked.  And it's starting to feel like that again.  Not the marriage.  The current marriage is great.  Graduate school, folks.  Graduate school is depressing.

If I'm so unhappy in graduate school, working on this dissertation, that all I do when even thinking about it is cry, if working on it makes me feel stupid and unworthy of a degree - WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING WASTING MY PRECIOUS TIME ON IT!??

I know I'm not stupid and I'm not unworthy of a degree - but I don't need to get a degree to tell me that!

In many respects, grad school has been great.  I really enjoyed the first few years.  I met people I really needed to meet and without it I wouldn't be here today.

I mean that in every sense, by the way.

But I'd really like to go back to being able to look up stuff I'm interested in, read the things I'm interested in reading, think about the things I'm interested in thinking about without feeling guilty.  I'd like to not feel nauseous in my office.  I'd like to stop having heart palpitations when I check my email.  I'd really like it all to be over.

That's it.

I'm done.

Let me out.
Let me off.
Let me go.

And if I could just get someone in my department to email me back it would be fan-fuckin'-tastic.


  1. Yuck! That sounds seriously awful. Can you put it "on pause"? I mean those chapters are written. Maybe if you quit the phd programme you can (one day), find a supervisor who thinks the good chapters are the stuff you should concentrate on??

  2. You sound really clear on this. That's beautiful. Really, that is the shit that most people pray to have - even if - ESPECIALLY if - it is through tears.
    I'm happy for you when I read this. Not happy jumping up in down but I genuinely smiled at the end of this post because you are able to see through all the "shoulds" to what you really feel and want. Most people get enslaved by the "shoulds". Good goin'! GO be happy!

  3. Forget the dissertation, go do the field work and write about your passion - not about what others think it should be.

  4. Have been thinking about it. Can you change advisors? A dissertation should be about your interest and point of view on the topic in question, not someone else's. An advisor should only guide you in writing the best paper you can and suggesting possible sources/ideas. This one sounds like they want the paper written from their point of view and in their way, not yours.

  5. Yeah, I don't think I'd be able to put up with people telling me what to write about. That would suck. I say follow what you know is good for you!

  6. I was in your same place in 2001. I had been working on my doctorate for 5 years. It was going nowhere slowly. My professor was happy to have me running the lab and paying me a research assistantship salary - so he wasn't pushing me, and I had stagnated academically. I just didn't want to be "the" soil particulate organic matter queen. I didn't want to teach, or write papers. I just wanted to work at something I liked during the day, and then do whatever I wanted at home at night (and that did not include literature reviews).

    So I got a job, and left. I also got lots of nasty comments from other grad students. Telling me I was insane to quit. But hey, now I have a job doing what I like (for the most part). With a phd I think I would be some post-doc in some lab somewhere. I'm not teacher material. I might have been just fine happy. But I'm still glad I went this route.

    I'm not telling you to bail. I just understand your frustration. Especially when the hands on work is the fun part, and your good at it - why do they care sooo much about this stupid thing called a thesis.


Keep it clean, don't be mean....