Saturday, February 02, 2013

the sound of deadlines whizzing by

It's hard for me to research when I have no external purpose/drive. I'm not expected to do research for my job, and I don't have a career goal for which I specifically need to keep my CV fresh.

I originally figured I'd go all in for 2012/2013, publishing articles from my painfully long and tedious dissertation. I have instead published nothing from it, and I'm not motivated to do so. It's time sensitive and someone else will probably publish something similar, effectively 'stealing my thunder,' or the work will become obsolete. I honestly don't care. When I finished it I was hell-bent on making it 'mean something.' Now I look at it and think that it actually means everything. That fat book is the physical representation of the achievement of all of my academic goals.

So, writing it was very worthwhile, even if it never sees the light of day again. I'm not saying it won't. I'm just saying I have no plans for it. After I graduated, I made deadlines for myself to publish various parts of it. Deadline for article #5 is about to pass and I haven't even begun on the work for deadline #1 (which was, ahem, last July sometime).

I have published one (unrelated) article since I graduated. I could do some research on the topic too, as there is little about it out there (at least, not that I could find when writing the initial article). I promised myself I'd do it this spring. Will I? Who knows. It's February now. I spent January googling reviews of baby gear and placing Amazon & Zulilly orders.

I also spent January starting to feel like a person again (an oddly shaped one), rejoicing the departure of a physical state teetering between "about to die" and "i might already be dead and this is hell." In the fall, there was no way I could do anything more than the most basic functions of my day job, and I was heavily medicated. But now, I really could do research and write article(s). I still have about 4 full months until baby time.

The problem is motivation. I keep waiting to WANT to do the research. When I was in school, the dark cloud of responsibility kept me going. It was heavy and unpleasant, and I kept my momentum with the promise that once I finished, that cloud would lift. It did lift. I really don't want bring that feeling upon myself again. I like feeling light and free, able to just chill out and look at Pinterest or bake a fun dessert or do a house project or watch a movie without the evil voice of responsibility goading me about my procrastination or the ticking clock.

I tell myself this is how most people live outside of work. They relax and enjoy life. But the evil voice is lingering. It says "Not you. You have a doctorate. You have to work 24/7. Forever. Muhahahaha." Ugh.

I refuse to believe that's what a PhD means for me. Many people choose that path, and I know it suits them very well. It is not that I don't want to be a lifelong learner. I'm not sitting here thinking "I'm done learning. No more learning for me!" It's just that I learn other kinds of things (at least right now). Like, I'm currently trying (and failing) to learn how to do some simple crochet stitches. And soon I'll take a class to learn how to keep a newborn child alive (this is a concern of mine).

Besides, my PhD was a personal accomplishment.

My advisor told me once that when I applied for the program, he didn't know if my motivation was in the right place. People usually go in to a PhD with definite career and academic goals, that is, something they want to research. Some topic(s) they are passionate about and thus wish to become experts. Me, I just wanted a PhD. I love my field of course, I didn't want just any ol' PhD. But I internally just wanted to prove to myself that I could complete this highest level of academic study. My advisor felt that for most people, the type of motivation I had was not enough to carry them through the program.

Turns out, I'm stubborn. I did it. It's signed, sealed, delivered. Framed and hung. Bound and shelved. So why do I now feel obligated to "use it" or "live up to it?"

I guess people with a PhD aren't supposed to just work a staff job by day, and then sit around at night  watching reruns of The Simpsons. Food for thought.