T: Amazing Husband ST: Three-year-old Wonder Prof. G: Advisor I Prof. C: Advisor II Julie: Stylish Sister Rob: Awesome Brother Belle: Our Cat Bill: Grumbling BIL Rita: Uncomplicated SIL SMU: Smallish Midwestern University Doctoral University: where I got my Ph.D.
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Quote of the Day
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Are You Sure? Are You Positive?
When we were dating, T used to do this annoying thing where whenever I'd say something very confidently, he'd ask (in a nasally voice), "Are you SURE? Are you POSITIVE?" Back then, I saw everything in either black or white; there was rarely a sense of uncertainty in my voice because I was always quite sure that I was right, that the decisions I made were sound, and that I was doing the best possible thing I could be doing at that moment.
A lot has changed since then.
Now I find that I'm fully aboard the dissertation rollercoaster, where one minute I'm very sure of myself and happy about life in general and the next I just want to throw in the towel and give up. I thought this feeling would go away once I was firmly entrenched in the dissertation project, as I am now, and certainly once I started getting interviews from schools, which I have. But if anything, the feeling has gotten worse. Being in academia has made me a lot less confident. I'm rarely sure that I'm right (probably because in academia there's someone around every corner waiting to tell you that you're wrong), I'm rarely sure that my project is interesting (despite a lot of external validation), and quite honestly, I'm rarely sure that I want to do this for the rest of my life.
Sometimes I think the sacrifices just aren't worth it. Although the experiences I'm having here are extraordinary, some days I'm just not sure if it's worth leaving my preschooler for a month, putting the full burden of childcare and household duties on my willing husband. And although I think eventually being a professor will be fulfilling, I'm not sure if it's worth putting off other things for, like having another child. In my "grand plan" for my life, I always thought I'd have another child before or shortly after ST turned three. That is not going to happen, considering his birthday is in April. And although I enjoy the work that I do about 75% of the time (that's an honest figure), sometimes I just think it's dull and pointless (and I'm not talking about the dissertation, but rather about the whole sum of coursework through the years). Sometimes I think I should have been a stay-at-home-mother. I'm sure I would have felt unfulfilled in that, too, however, after awhile.
Does anyone know for sure that they're doing the right thing? Is anyone completely satisfied with their career, or does everyone hover around a 75% satisfaction rate? Is this academic life worth the sacrifice? Honestly?
Some days I wish I had taken a different path. Sometimes I wish I had chosen a major in collegew with a very clear career path: engineering, accounting, business management. Sometimes I think I should have been a high school teacher. Some days I wish I had taken the path I almost did take: law school (although the type of law I wanted to practice would have probably led me even further away from family, a stable life, and a satisfying job for T). Some days I wish I could have been fulfilled working, as I did throughout my undergraduate years, in a bookstore. Almost every day I wish I could keep my work separate from the rest of my life. I wish I could take true "holidays," and I wish weekends and extended breaks weren't merely chances to "catch up." I wish academic life was 9 to 5, no weekends.
I said that about 75% of the time, I'm happy with what I do. I like the topic I'm working on. I've liked my coursework. But I've never been one of those people who just goes nuts over a particular topic, who can't wait to talk about it again, who can't wait to read every work ever published on a certain topic. I have a friend who received his Ph.D. this past June and is now working at a major research university. He gets himself so worked up and excited about the things he's reading about and writing about that he literally sounds a little crazy sometimes. He could speak with such passion about the topic, a passion I could never muster for my topic or for anything else I've read. Sure, I like the work I do just fine. It's a job, it's interesting. But do I LOVE it? No. Would I do this for fun? No. Is this normal?
I know I'm feeling this way because I am very isolated here. Despite being in a huge city and despite having friends here, I am lonely and terrifically homesick. I think of my husband and son, tucked peacefully in bed at my MIL's house 13 hours away from our home, and I just want to be there, want to be with them where I feel needed and loved. I don't want to do any more research, I don't want to do any sightseeing, and I certainly don't want to think about interviews or job prospects. I just want to be around the people who know me best and who can assure me that yes, YES, I am doing the right thing. And that yes -- YES -- it will all be worth it in the end.