Monday, April 5, 2010

Where I Swear An Awful Lot, Thanks to the Thesis and Grad School Hell

I got feedback from Former Thesis Advisor Who Has Been Reinstated, Dammit (FTAWHBR).

It was vague-ish feedback, but enough for me to know he was unimpressed. I don't really care if he  is impressed or not. My respect for FTAWHBR within academics is waning further and further. The thing is, he made all good points. I read his comments and thought, "Oh, yeah. Duh."

I am feeling overwhelmed. On the one hand, I really want to dive back in and get moving on the changes he suggested and move forward while I am inspired by his comments and wide awake and full of energy. Before I have spent my energy on a nine-hour work day. But I can't. I still have six more hours at work. And it is a good thing I am at work, because I am soooo behind here that I need to bust ass and try and get a few priority projects of my desk.

There are no minutes of my day where I am not under the pressure of deadlines. My back is bending from the pressure.

I feel like I am fucking up everything, everywhere for no good reason. What is this all for? I am not proud of the thesis; I don't think it answers any worthwhile question. When stating my thesis (of the thesis, ha!), and then trying to answer the "So what?" question, all I can come up with is, ""  I just want to finish. Rather, I don't want to not finish. Does that make sense?


Let me share my never-fucking-ending mental dialogue:

Take a deep breath. I just need to back up, clear my head, and revise my plan. Clarify and purge anything that is getting in the way of a clear argument.

What argument? What the fuck am I doing? Do I have any goddamn clue of what I am  doing? I am such a goddamn phony. If a degree is confired upon me it just proves what a joke academia really is.

This is a learning process. That is what this is about. It is to learn how to conduct research.
In my case, it is to learn how NOT to conduct it. Jesus Christ.

I just want my life back.

I can get it back when I finish.

What if I can't finish? I have never not finished something! I have NEVER had any trouble at all with academics. I swear, I used to be an imaginative, critical thinker. I could concentrate and focus and made some pretty fucking fantastic observations, if I do say so myself.

Where did that go? WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?


I am tired.


  1. Ugh. I'm so sorry you're feeling this way. If it helps, I imagine that most people feel this way at this point in the thesis process. They have done so much work and gotten so close to the issue and had so many setbacks that they probably can't even see past it anymore, or tell if their work is worthwhile.

    Your work IS worthwhile. Even if it isn't groundbreaking, it is interesting and valuable. And so is the process. And soon you will finish (YOU WILL), and then you will have your life back, and you will never have to do this again.

  2. You can do this. You're just having a moment of self-doubt. And that will happen from time to time. You WILL finish. You will.

  3. Jess and Kate - thanks for the support. I just needed to wallow in self-pity and shittiness for a while. Thanks for hanging in there with me!

  4. you are taking on A LOT. i mean, i didn't even go to GRAD school and here you are writing a thesis - A THESIS! - while also going to work full time and having a life and being an adult. it was hard enough for me to stay motivated and be a good student and research properly when it was the ONLY THING going on in my life. you are doing superbly :-)

  5. I second Jess--the discouragement is part of the process! It's practically a mandated step that you need to check off! (Wouldn't that be sorta funny if you DID have to submit a form attesting that yes, indeed, you have felt bottom-scraping disillusionment & misery? And have to have it signed by, say, the secretary who saw you crying outside your thesis advisor's office? not that that's EVER happened to me)

    And remember, in five years, when the thesis is a vague and hazy memory, what it actually said will be so very much less important than the fact that you put in all that work. I bet less than a quarter of all successful grad students write a thesis that is really "important" in the academic-breakthrough sense--and yet they still go on to do fantastic work, either inside or outside the university. Like you will do! You will!

  6. I have that exact same conversation in my head at least once a day: I have nothing to say, nothing to contribute. I'm a total fraud and I just want to go back to having a life. I don't care about any of this, but I don't want to just quit. I used to be smart and articulate and well-read, but now I'm turned into the village idiot. ARGH!

    But you are so close to being done! You're revising. Yay! Revision is good. Because it means that you have something to revise---and worth revising.

    Lots of deep breaths. Meditation. And the occasional stiff drink. You'll make it through.

  7. Oh sweets. I remember this feeling so well, now that I read your words. I'd almost forgotten what it was like to be 75% thru a thesis and hate it. It's not fun AT ALL.

    Don't make perfect the enemy (or whatever that Voltaire line is)... Sometimes when it comes to a thesis and academics, good enough is definitely good enough.

    (Hopefully this makes a TINY bit of sense.)


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