So I’ve decided to take a step back from my PhD program.
Okay, now that that’s out of the way, here’s a bit of why –
- When I thought about quitting it entirely, I got excited, rather than sad.
That’s the main reason.
The moment you start daydreaming about a better life away from something, I think it’s time to step away from it. And that applies to everything.
I say it’s a break, but technically it’s a leave of absence. I was exhausted from enduring something that used to excite me. I was tired of feeling guilty for wasting an amazing opportunity. I was worried about myself, I was spinning my wheels and not making much progress. Working harder and getting nowhere. I was managing poorly, and not only was I not satisfied with the work I was creating, I was not satisfied with the life I was living. Above all, I’m just really tired of crying! I’m so tired of crying! My face hurts! No more!
And no, the pandemic didn’t help.
Rather than continue to waste the opportunity to work among some of the best scholars in the world, I decided to take a step back, give myself the distance to gain some perspective, and figure out what to do next.
I got a job, and am working on building myself back again.
This entire process of untangling myself from my PhD program – finances, friends, mentors, and all – has felt like a really shitty breakup.
The worst kind of breakup where you two have moved in together, and now you both have to figure out who gets to take the toaster that you only bought one of? There’s hard feelings there. You wish you were treated better, you wish they had more to give, you knew what this was! – they tell you, but in your heart you knew you wanted more, deserved more, and so there you are. Alone.
That’s what this feels like!
I still feel extremely guilty about this. Guilt I’ve been told is not an entirely useful emotion, not unless you let it teach you something, but I’m still entirely too close to the situation to tell. I think I need to follow my intuition more often, things never felt comfortable from the get-go, but I think I told myself that a PhD was what I was supposed to be doing, I was always supposed to get a PhD, that’s what everyone’s told me!
I also have a deeeep, deep-seeded fear that I will never amount to anything because I can never stick anything out. I stay in places for a year or so and then find the need to escape. Or at least, this is the narrative I’ve given myself ’cause I’ve heard it about myself. I still worry I’ll never be able to maintain a job for long. I worry that I’m incompetent. I worry that I’m going to have “depression” forever, I worry that I have been changed and will never recover from… something. I think I ran to a PhD program because it’s all I feel I’m good at, and I could redeem myself from years of wandering aimlessly.
But that’s not how that works. And it’s a terrible reason to go into a PhD program!
I hope time will heal this part of me. I hope to come back to myself. To find joy in the things that awaken my curiosity. To discover new hobbies and skills. I wanna practice Portuguese and Spanish and now French and Korean more often (the French is for my research/interests, the Korean is to give me a break from the Romance languages and challenge me to learn a new writing system). I want to play the bass more often and learn how to read music written for a string instrument. I want to paint and draw more. I want to help my dog lose weight (lol). Cook more. Keep my apartment clean. SELF CARE.
I say all that to say, I’m taking a break. For a year probably. In the meantime, I hope you stick around for whatever’s next.