I’ve been doing a lot of complaining lately. This semester is really wearing me down, and because of that I’ve felt the need to comically whine about all the things that are stressing me out.
But a few things have happened this week that have made me realize that I need to take a break and express how truly thankful I am to be where I am right now.
Yes, this semester is hard, but you know what? Last year at this time was even harder.
I have a couple friends going through the PhD application process (some for the second or third time). Watching them doing it (even from afar) has been like watching a documentary on war: I remember what it was like, it was well and truly awful, watching it from a distance has made me re-experience some of the feelings that I felt while going through it the first time, and I am so very very glad that I have the buffer of “it’s happening to someone else right now” because you seriously couldn’t pay me enough to put myself through that again.
The application process itself is hard work. You pour your soul into those aps and you agonize over every piece of it; what should I put in my personal statement? Should I talk about the work of scholars whom I admire in this program, or will it make me look like a brown-noser? Should I quote them at themselves? How should I format my CV? When you only have about ten pages of information with which you must present your very essence, every single letter is critical.
Then you submit the applications sometime between December and early January… and you’re free for a time. Hitting the “send” button is a culmination of all the soul-wrenching work that you’ve done in the past few months. It’s like those last steps as you reach the peak of the mountain; the hardest part, but also the most fulfilling.
And then you wait. For several months. You sit on your hands, unable to do anything, unable to say anything, unable to plan anything, with nothing to do but worry. What if you get in x place, where will you live? What if you get in y place, how far are you willing to commute? What if you don’t get in anyplace, what part (and how much) of your integrity are you willing to compromise for a paycheck?
And you start making back-up plans. Like “Well, if I don’t get in, I’ll just go do this and try again next year.” And you convince yourself that those back-up plans are just as good as (if not better than) starting the next leg of your journey.
And you wait.
And you lose sleep.
And you bite your nails.
And then you check the gradcafe forums and see that some people have started getting their decision letters, and that just begins the vicious cycle all over again.
Today, I had coffee with someone who has gotten into my program and is considering it (amongst some others). It was a true pleasure to meet and speak with him, and it made me think about how weird it is to be on the opposite end of this process. Just a year ago, I was the person sniffing out the programs. Just a year ago, I was in limbo not sure where I was going yet. Just a year ago, I was embroiled in a decision making process that was stressful, difficult, and absolutely draining.
The circle has come round. I’m the expert now, the person who is where other people want to be (or think they may want to be). That is an indescribably odd thing; to quote Joni Mitchell, “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now”.
So for today, I am grateful. I am still stressed out and tired, but nowhere near as stressed out and tired as I was last year. I have a ton of work to do, but at least I’m not worried about where I’m going to live come July. I don’t see an end to my crazy amounts of everything, but at least I have a plan to get it all done.
I really do love my life. Even when the going gets tough. And, despite the down-sides to my job, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
…and now back to our regularly scheduled programming.