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I found balance in grad school.

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Nov. 11th, 2010 | 02:00 am
mood: grumpyRanty Rita
music: Shakira - Sombra de ti | Powered by Last.fm

It was definitely not on the fifth floor of the library, sixth carrel on the left.

Angela and I have been on a stress-is-not-worth-it kick in the last couple of weeks. As long as you can recognize what you need to contribute to your classes, peers, mentors, advisors, and institution and live up to that, there is no reason to lose sleep, tear out your hair, and live on whatever food you can grab late at night on the way home from another 15-hour day. That lifestyle is not worth it, and doesn't help you perform at your best anyway.

From my perspective, it's obvious that the faculty I interact with have expectations not in line with me as a balanced person. By that I mean that they expect that I'll be able to teach and respond to my students and grade their assignments, and complete all the work assigned (plus the departmental extras like helping out with prospective student recruitment, conferences, and the like) because they imagine my life being similar to theirs. I can pretty much guarantee you that they don't do their own laundry, cook most of their own food, clean their own houses, etc. And I don't mean to imply that they're lazy or don't do anything; indeed they do, and many of them are parents as well. But I finally realized that it's so not worth it to attempt to complete every single bit of work that is being asked of me when it comes at the expense of keeping my life in order, or working out regularly, or socializing outside of the academic bubble. They can work at a feverish pace on their teaching, research, service to the department and so on because their life won't fall apart as a result. Mine wouldn't work that way. We will meet halfway, and I am much more sane as a result.

There is likely also some stereotyping of what the graduate student's life is supposed to be like happening at both ends here. I knew coming into this program that the workload would be high, and every one of my professors and bosses was a grad student once and is somehow aware of the challenges of that life. But I don't have any desire to live up to the stereotype of broke, haggard, sleep-deprived, and chasing free food, and any attempts to make me that way will not succeed. In the end, and as Ang and I have discussed, you produce much better work and are better able to make connections between solutions proposed by the academy and problems in the real world when you are well-rested, alert, fit, and have been eating properly. Take that, grad school.

On a somewhat related note, the author of Ph.D. Comics, Jorge Cham, is coming to campus on December 1. He takes these issues and makes them into a webcomic that is much more light-hearted than this post has been. But I think he does it extremely well, and I have had many a Cecilia moment while grading. I will be in the front row for his talk. :D

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from: ashfault76
date: Nov. 12th, 2010 01:08 pm (UTC)

I have had many a Cecilia moment while grading
So you're stapling Taco Bell applications to their assignments?

I totally agree with every bit of what you've said. I took exactly the same approach to graduate school - I wasn't about to give up my life in favor of work. As a result, it took me 8 years to finish instead of 5, but it was 8 years of mostly-awesome, and I wouldn't change a thing about any of it.

Good for you for standing your ground. You'll come out a much more awesome person as a result...if you don't get overwhelmed by your despair for humanity's future based on your students' inability to grasp obvious concepts.

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from: silverthief2
date: Nov. 14th, 2010 07:54 pm (UTC)

I have not to date stapled Taco Bell applications to their papers. :P

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