Thursday, February 16, 2012

A loss of perspective

Getting a PhD seldom ever expands your world view.

I was talking with one of the ladies I knit with on Wednesdays at lunch, and I mentioned something about calculus, and she told me she knew nothing about it.

Which got me thinking that probably 80% of Americans know nothing about calculus, and 80% of math professors have forgotten more about math than most people ever knew in the first place.

And I knew that calculus was easy, differential equations were more challenging, and partial differential equations could be a world of pain in the wrong basis, but regardless of any of that, I have surrounded myself with brilliant people. When you are hanging around brilliant people all the time, you forget that you are smart. Everyone is smart, smart is how you joined the club, hard work is how you stay in the club. It is expected that you leave the club and do big important things, in a reasonable amount of time. No one would want to join the club if you couldn't leave it.

I was talking to one of my office mates, and the club is divided into several tribes. There are Americans, Chinese, Europeans, Latinos, and Indians. If you don't speak the language you can't switch tribes, and even though everyone speaks English, you speak your own language in your tribe. The only way to break tribal barriers is you share an office with someone in another tribe, or have group mates in another tribe. In the hierarchy of relationships, group mates are the most sacred. You would throw anyone else in front of the bus, if you offed your labmates that would just mean more work for you. Who else would you complain about your advisor with?

It is grad student recruitment time again. You come in feeling so special and so amazing. How can you tell them the truth.

You love and hate your advisor?

It has been 2, 3, 4, 5 . . . years now, you don't feel the same about what you are doing.

Your life is very small, but you will be able to do so much once you get out.

You feel stupid, clubfooted, near heart attack, and awkward most of the time.

Just imagine how great you will be at procrastinating soon.

I have to admit that weeks like these make me rue the choice I made to see it to the end. One person's perspective on hardworking is another's idea of lazy. What is the number one priority? Getting mind fucked in class, producing data, or helping your loved one through a tough time? If you work 84 hours a week, will you make it there sooner, or will you burn out and take twice as long?

I guess I have been walking the line between humor and pain. And the short answer is I have a goal, and I have worked damned hard to make the stars line up my way. I am smart, and hardworking, and I want to be Doctor Molly, not Master Molly. Grad school has not been what I expected, but that doesn't mean it isn't what I want.

Take care guys,

Molly : )

1 comment:

  1. Oh god, the tribe thing. Unfortunate, but oh so true. And I was lucky that my advisor wasn't accepting new students this year. I don't think grad students always have the most fair and balanced view of their advisors, and that's especially the case while writing (be that for a publication or thesis). And I must admit, I'm pretty okay with not being able to put Dr. in front of my name - getting the MS is good enough for me. More power, however, to those who truly have that passion. Despite the frustration, it'll be worth it in the end.