Every day when my roommate and I come home from work/school/the day’s adventures, we have some variant of the following exchange:
Roommate: Hey, roomie!
Me: Hey, roomie!
Roommate: How was your day?
Me: Good, how was yours?
Roommate: Good, I got [a lot/a little/not as much as I wanted] work done. I’m working on [this project] that’s [really cool/aggravating/interesting/completely insipid]. How bout you?
Me: Ugh, I had a meeting with Professor [X/Y/Z] about my [paper/application/publishing/general academic stuff]. It went really [well/poorly/made me want to cry/that’s why it’s 6 PM and I’m on my third martini]. Then I had to stop at the library to [pick up/return] a ton of books on my way to class. Then I had to do some printing so I hiked up to the graduate lounge, and I have all of these deadlines looming… I’m really worried about all the work that’s on my desk and having enough time to get it all done.
Yesterday, there was a new addition to the conversation. After my comment about the amount of work I have and getting it all done, my roommate mentioned “Yea, but you say that every day.”
I paused. I thought. Really? Do I?
I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised if I did…
So here’s an arch-metaphor that rules my life: graduate school (and the workload involved therein) is like a giant rolling snowball atop which one is expected to run. If you don’t keep up with the snowball, it will roll away and lose you. If you get too far ahead, you’ll run away and lose it. If you run a little bit too slow, you are in danger of falling off and you teeter helplessly on that brink of regaining your balance. If you run a bit too fast, you may get rolled over by the snowball as it takes this opportunity to become larger, realizing that clearly it wasn’t big enough to begin with otherwise you wouldn’t have been able to overcome it. Where you really want to be is balanced right on top. But being there isn’t an easy feat; once you get there you still have to constantly run to maintain your position.
And, of course, it doesn’t help that people around you who work in normal jobs want to do things like socialize on the weekends and it’s no use explaining that you don’t really get weekends because weekends are just an extension of your work week during which you aren’t even expected to put on pants thereby you can get even MORE work done (because everyone knows that the amount of work one is capable of accomplishing is directly tied to the amount of time spent in one’s pajamas). Pants are the anti-homework.
I have thought long and hard about this and I have come to several conclusions:
1) I need a time-turner. Or a TARDIS. Either would accomplish the ends of gaining more hours in my day.
2) ….or maybe a flux capacitor and a delorean.
3) Or I could just chain myself to my desk and never attend another social activity again… this could be a sure-fire method to writing an eccentric genius book or hatching a Howard Hughes-esque plan to make a billion dollars… either way, I’d be set financially and that would certainly take a lot of worries off my mind. But then I’d also wind up looking like Howard Hughes… or Gollum…. Yikes.
4) Maybe there’s some professional secret that they don’t tell you until you’re ABD… like “oh, hey, now that you’ve suffered, HERE’S how academics do it all”. I hold out some small hope that, upon passing my orals, the head of my department will induct me into some secret literati society with robes and fancy sigils… but no koolaid. Nobody likes koolaid.
5) ….maybe I should just get back to work.