I sure did push things to the deadline this month. It’s because I am overcoming challenges, every day! And that’s the topic of this month’s Scientiae: overcoming challenges, and the most firey fire of my academic career.
It’s a hard question to answer because there have been so MANY challenges. What about deciding halfway through my master’s that I did not want to stay on and do the planned PhD on the same topic, because I had suddenly realized I was doing the wrong thing? Or do I talk about the project from hell that wasn’t even a planned part of my thesis and almost took over, and that left me crying in the lab in the middle of the night by myself several nights a week for over two years? Or maybe the emotional fall-out that made the last year or two pure hell?
The last one is the freshest in my mind. Surviving the end of grad school. Unlike early grad school, with its relentlessly long nights and weekends of classwork and unrewarding research on a project I despised, the second half of the PhD was tough because I was running out of steam. I recovered from the exam burn-out only to have it come right back over the next three years, this time with that long-haul depression that apparently most grad students experience (this is repeating myself, but I note again: THIS IS BROKEN. SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH THAT). Regular panic attacks, being unable to get to a doctor covered by my student health plan (NOTE: ALSO BROKEN) in order to get more than emergency help with the suddenly elevated panic disorder (instead I just ended up with some emergency meds prescribed over the phone. Once I stopped hyperventilating), and the massive stress of having to finish under a crazy, very early, and inflexible deadline while simultaneously trying to find gainful employment for the rapidly approaching day when I would get kicked out of school… That was nuts. I am only just starting to cook things that aren’t pasta again. I only just started exercising again. And doing crafts and playing in a music group and even occasionally going out for a drink with friends. I had almost forgotten that those things exist.
I know that’s a pretty standard fire – the fire of getting the goddamn PhD – but it was pretty damn firey. And it’s still very fresh – I’m not quite healed from it yet. But I suppose it made me stronger. Where “stronger” = “done.”