Happy June, friends! It's beginning to finally look like summer here in Madison and I'm so excited for all of the summer shenanigans to begin! This past month, my biggest achievement was finishing my first year of graduate school - whew!
The last couple weeks of the semester were a crazy time of working too much, burning out, and subsequent couch potato status but now I feel like I’m a little bit back to my old self! The warm weather doesn’t hurt either :) Since I’ve been through the academic ringer this past year, I thought I’d share a couple of my thoughts from my first year as a PhD student - at first I thought I’d write about “things I learned” but let’s be real, my brain is usually such a whirlwind of chaos that these are really just random thoughts on my first year :P
No one can quite prepare you for what it's like to pursue a PhD. Before starting my PhD, I was warned time and time again of the stress and work and pressure that comes with both a PhD and academic professions. I read every book I could get my hands on and interviewed every PhD student I knew to get a feel for whether this was something I truly wanted to pursue. Despite all of that prep work, there was still really nothing that could have prepared me for being a PhD student because there’s really nothing quite like it (in both the good and the bad). I wasn’t really prepared for how confused and frustrated I’d be throughout most of the year (since it is such an independent pursuit) and I truly didn’t understand how difficult it’d be to maintain some semblance of work-ilfe balance during the busier times of the semester : /
Anxiety is a real thing. I reeeeeaaaaally thought that I’d managed to train most of my social anxiety out of my system. I grew up a super shy kid and throughout high school and college, my social anxiety continued to decrease - so, naturally -I thought it would only keep decreasing as I got older. I was wrong. I honestly can’t quite pinpoint the exact reason why my anxiety has skyrocketed since beginning my PhD (likely a combination of many things) but I think it often stems from being told to do things that I have no idea how to do which brings up all kinds of feelings of incompetence.
Just because everyone else is working 24/7 doesn’t mean you also have to work 24/7. This is something I’m still trying to talk myself into! I’m one of those people who really can’t focus for more than 5-6 hours in a day. Even when I try to work more than that, the first 5 hours of my work day are about 100000x more productive. I’m a part of a very hard-working cohort and I often feel pressure to work later at night and all the time on weekends. I’m still working on reminding myself that I’m a human, not a robot :)
Anyhoo, if you’ve made it this far, thanks so much for listening to my PhD-related rambles :) Hope your May was absolutely wonderful and thanks as always for reading!