Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Little Bit Freaked

I'm feeling a bit freaked out about the dissertation. The other morning, in the shower, I had a thought that went like this:

"Why are you doing a PhD? You're never going to be able to finish, and it takes so much time. This was all a bad idea, and now you've got an unpleasant road ahead, and you might not make it, and you'll let down everyone who has supported you in this process."

I've never felt this way about it before, and it scared me a little bit.

I think it's just that work is so busy, and I don't get to see the kids enough, and there is no sabbatical in the near future to make time for the work.

I'm just not sure how I'm going to get it done.


loveskidlit said...

Is the PhD related to work (beyond the obvious: I mean is it linked to an improvement there, or a requirement of your employment)? You can do it, if you want to do it. But I agree with periodic reassessments of whether it's worth the many costs for you, and at this stage of parenthood too.

But: you CAN do it, if you want to do it!

Dr. Rural said...

I'm not sure if this will help, but I don't know anyone with a Ph.D. who didn't have very similar feelings at some point during the process. (Many of us felt that way frequently.)

Good luck!

C. Troubadour said...

Oh GEW! I hear you, fellow dissertator. It's not easy when that little voice of cold, stark, why-don't-you-cut-your-losses reason starts up.

I know I'm not familiar with the scope of your project, but I wonder -- how flexible is that? I'm only asking because I've changed the expectations for my own work in the last few months to make the possibility of finishing more realistic. Is that something (in a vague way) that might help you? I hear the not-enough-time, used-so-many-resources, have-no-clear-idea-how-to-make-this-work-with-the-rest-of-my-life arguments. I've made them all to myself before.

Here to listen in more detail if you need an ear. Just pop me an e-mail if you need a sounding board.


Anonymous said...

When I was about 3 weeks from defending, I started having nightmares about my teeth falling out. Every. flippin. night. So, I went to the dentist to see if there are any problems. 23 CAVITIES! They scheduled 4 appts in a row for me to get them all. What I REALLY needed was a Lobotomy. I did tell them to drill higher, put me out of my misery.

We all have an unpleasant road ahead. Knock the PhD out and then worry about future shit later.
Hugs, jc

Amstr said...

I feel this way at least monthly, especially when I haven't had a chance to work. Once I get into the groove, the pesky voice usually quiets a little bit.

I think right now I'm committed to so many things that I can't possibly do them all. The dissertation often gets pushed to the side by dishes, vacuuming, birthday parties, kid stuff, pleasure reading, showering. BUT one thing that helps is to realize how much I can get done by working in tiny chunks--15 minutes here, half an hour there. When I'm actually writing, 20 minutes can feel like a long time.

It can also be good to reassess at certain specified points (not during panic time). I think I'm going to have a natural transition point in January (assuming I make my Dec 15 deadline for a conference-paper-turned-book-chapter), and I'll probably wait to really reassess until February. There could be something really freeing about quitting (and I'm sure all your supportive people would be really supportive of whatever you choose), but there could be something really freeing about finishing, too.

So really I guess all I'm saying is, I hear you!

Ink said...

(((((GEW))))) I think it's part of the process, honestly. I remember saying a billion times during the penultimate year, "I really don't know if I can do this. I actually might not finish." But then I'd get up the next day and keep going. And then, eventually, little by little, you can make it happen. But perhaps you can let go of feeling worry about letting anyone down...honestly, whether you finish or not, those people will still love and respect you for YOU. This is just your journey and your decision and your process. You have to decide if you want to do it, first of all. If you do, then the next step is making a list of things you have to do to finish. Then you have to attack them one at a time. If you look at the giant picture, it'll seem enormous, but if you can just focus on one thing on the list at a time, it's doable. Then keep working that list until BOOM! You're done!

One prof at my school said, "The only thing that matters is crossing the finish line." That put a lot into perspective for me. I either would, or I wouldn't. And it didn't matter so much, whether what I produced was great. It just had to be DONE. Which helped me let go of stifling expectations. Not that every day wasn't a self-doubting battle, but at least if I was battling, I was doing something.

Gosh, this is getting long. But basically, I'm just trying to suggest that you can do it, even if you have to do it in an spurts of an hour a day for a few years...

loveskidlit said...

I also had a helpful moment when a computer science student told me that every day, he did one small thing toward getting it done. I applied that philosophy to my entire last year. Some days, it was just buying post-it notes. Other days, a lot more. But just focusing on getting one small thing done every day got me to completion, inevitably.

That mantra might work for you too!

Good Enough Woman said...

Thank you for the encouragement, everybody. I knew that if anyone could offer support and suggestions, it's you guys! I'll post another update soon, once I get through this week's intense accreditation brouhaha.

((((blog peeps))))

The Steel Magnolia said...

I always repeat something that one of my mentor's told me: "Stupid people have Ph.D.'s--and your'e not even stupid!"
You can do this! And once it's done, it's done forever!

English Adjunct said...

I have no wise words of advice but from this side of the computer screen, you seem to be pretty put together. Keep on truckin'!

Tiger Mom PhD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tiger Mom PhD said...

I just wrote about this today! As I write me dissertation, I'm feeling this exact same way. It is so hard sometimes and then you wonder if it is worth the time away from family and friends. Then you wonder if it will really get any better once you go into academia (if you want to do this...), which I'm pretty sure it doesn't! There are so many doubts. In times like this I try to remember the accomplishments I've made and sometimes I take a break and spend time with Little T and Mr. T. Good luck!

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

I eventually got to the point where I didn't care anymore whether or not I was being brilliant, writing anything new, or even doing the best research. When I let all that go, I wrote and revised all five chapters of my dissertation in three months. I worked on it every day, and just made the damn thing happen. Now? I'm done, grateful it's over, and no one's the wiser. They still have to call me "doctor" even if I'm basically a C-student. And honestly, when I reread what I wrote, it's not half bad. I think being really high strung about it made me clam up. But once I was resigned to just plowing through, I realized that I can be smart without having a ramrod up my tush.

Academic, Hopeful said...

Bit late on the scene here - been caught up finishing my own bloody thesis - and not sure I can add to the wisdom here, but just to say that I too felt like this, especially just before or after some serious productivity. There are some intensely weird psychological dimensions to the write-up, and recurrent dread is one of them.

(Be warned: it's very likely that at around 90% done, you will decide that you can't finish and that you don't really need to either.)

I also had fears about letting other people down - but I have to tell you, now that I am finished, that those 'audience members' aren't actually watching terribly closely, as shown by the fact that they're happy and proud at the end, but not in a way that suggests that they were as invested as you think! It's for you, this thesis journey.

Lastly, try to keep the task small in your mind. Don't spend too much time thinking about the big questions (unless you really do think it's a harmful endeavour - you probably don't HAVE to do this). Do your bit: turn up at the right place at the right time, set a reasonably-sized task, reward yourself etc.

One thing I noticed happening is that the intensity of the dread correlated with the feasibility of me finishing, and the balance that needed to be struck was between letting go of 'deadlines' (as could sometimes just make me panicky and hopeless) and then holding onto the idea that 'a good thesis is a finished thesis' (and that I had to take control of it, and get it done). It's a balance though - no use whipping yourself with due dates if it means you're too scared to work!

Good luck! And it does all come together. You'll find a natural pace in those final months. Til then, it's just about slowly building.

You'll get there! And the conference in the UK should give you a boost. (St Hugh's College is beautiful, btw - I live 5 mins' walk away. You're v close to that vegie pub, the Gardener's Arms, which is a must-visit).

The Thirty-Something Bride said...

You totally got this.