Friday, April 10, 2009

grad school update

Back in October I wrote about my ambitious plan to defend my thesis by May 8th. Well, that is not going to happen. Experiments take longer to do than expected. Results are ambiguous and need follow-up experiments to be clarified. Procrastination happens periodically. However, my new deadline is August/September. In my current position I think this is a doable goal. I now have real results, I am working on my first paper and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel get brighter everyday.

A few weeks ago I was feeling low and I was having a conversation with one of my labmates. I confessed to her that in my journey towards a phd I've always seen this tall mountain ahead of me that I will need to climb before I can get to my destination. I guess I convinced myself that all the hardest work will come at the end. I felt that as I got closer to finishing, the mountain seemed higher. My labmate said - Why does there have to be a mountain? The more I thought about it, the more the mountain seemed to shrink. Why did I imagine a mountain? I have been working for 6.5 years, I only have a few more months to go. Why would there be a greater amount of work now? Work is just work: certain tasks to be accomplished. I have acquired the skills to accomplish these tasks, all there is to be done to to keep moving forward, one step at a time, until the destination is reached. True, I will have to do writing, which I haven't yet done, but I love writing! That should be the best part. My labmate's simple and profound statement changed my perception of the road ahead of me, and I feel as if I dropped a heavy load and am moving forward with a spring in my step. The past few weeks labwork has become fun. Without the weird pressure I was piling on myself, I can enjoy the process of scientific discovery without anxiety of all that is yet to be done.

Sure I still feel anxious and unproductive sometimes, and I have to keep reminding myself of the flat road ahead. I started meditating every morning, including some visualization of the flat road ahead, and I find that it helps to keep me focused. I am also discovering that things get done faster when I stop expecting perfection and just try.

A few days after this conversation I was talking to a classmate of mine, and I told her about my epiphany moment. She laughed and said "Why imagine a flat road, why not a downhill road? You can go faster and faster..and crash and burn at the end" :) She was joking of course, but I gave the idea some thought. I decided that I like the idea of steady progress that the flat road represents. Although I suppose, a slight downward incline just might hasten me to my goal...

No comments: