Follow-Up To “Never Gotten An Email”

12Oct07

(a response to my own post from this morning) 

I’ve been thinking all day about this, this, and this. And I’ve realized a few important things that I hadn’t really seen before:

FIRST. Not working on my dissertation isn’t really a matter of “want” or of “rather.” It’s not really that I’d rather hang out with Evan than work on my dissertation.  Some days I would definitely choose school over a crying baby.  It’s more that I know I can’t do it all (teach, dissertate, mother). Taking care of Evan is not optional, and it barely leaves time for teaching and things like showering, taking care of myself, etc.  Unless I want to work on it during hours I am usually sleeping, I just flat don’t have time for dissertating. Writing the dissertation’s not like writing here on my blog — I can’t just work on it for a few minutes at a time and hope to get anywhere. It’s time-consuming, arduous, mind-splitting work. It requires much reading, thinking, and pacing.  Frankly, I can’t even finish a tough SuDoKu before bed most nights; I can’t even imagine slicing off a big beefy bite of theory or cognitive linguistics to chew on before bed.

I say all of this with the full knowledge that in several years, I might wish I could have fit it in better. I might, if I can’t find time to work on it, look back and really regret not finishing. But I also wish I were two inches taller and had as much hair as my sister does. I can’t spend my days wallowing in that. I have a finite amount of patience, energy, and time and I am allocating it as best I can right now — even if it’s not always how I would have chosen to allocate it before Evan was born.

I wouldn’t trade him for all that stuff I used to do even if I will sometimes, or even often, really mourn the loss of that stuff.

SECOND. I don’t feel like I am choosing between Evan and my dissertation.  When Brian and I decided to have a baby, Evan became a given.  What I really feel like I’m doing is choosing between me time, between sleep, between my own physical and mental well-being, between time with my husband all on the one hand and my dissertation on the other. And that’s OK.

THIRD. The true beauty of this whole situation is that I don’t have to decide. I don’t have to choose a date and go tell someone on that date that I quit. There’s no two weeks notice. I have until May 2011 to finish my dissertation and a pain-in-the-ass exam at that point could buy me two more years. By no means is not working on my dissertation now like signing a death warrant.

All of which, actually, makes me feel less like staging debates and justifying my choices.  So, as Dr. Melfi might say, I think we’re getting somewhere.

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3 Responses to “Follow-Up To “Never Gotten An Email””

  1. 1 genevieve

    I think these points really clarified for me how you see the situation. You’re quite pragmatic. I really like how your vision of things undone as really water under the bridge.

    As I applied to phd programs and decided and moved a thousand miles away from all the people I loved I was forced to really question why this seemed like the right decision. And the thing is, even though I justified it to myself at the time, that I needed freedom, had to demonstrate to myself that I could do it, I question it again every day, whether I’m going to a museum by myself or getting a cup of coffee alone or talking on my cell or webcam to the people I love who are so far away. I’m not convinced I made the right decision, not even entirely convinced I’ll stick it out more than a year, but I hope I can see what decisions I have made and what I will make in the future in as positive a light as you are.

  2. Thanks, Genevieve, for your comments. I’ve seen a lot of folks come and go through the program over the years and the people who stay do so because they really love academia and are able to make a happy life at school and the people who go tend to do so because academia ultimately couldn’t win out over something in life. The friends of mine who’ve left after a year have never expressed regret. But definitely stick with it this year — you’ll get to know more people. A few years ago we had a Sunday brunch thing going where we had brunch at a different person’s house each Sunday morning. That was the best socializing I ever had in school. Of course it’s also really hard, I won’t lie. You get so busy and the quarters go by so fast that you barely notice you’ve gone five weeks without seeing anyone except in class.

    I’m, uh, distracted and busy lately and am NEVER on campus except to teach. And I live fifteen miles outside the city. But if you ever want to get together, just let me know.

  3. 3 genevieve

    You are so sweet! Thanks for the advice. You know, it’s kind of difficult to relocate and then be in grad school…who has time to make friends? I don’t even have time to eat properly…the lack of time for anything not school does make me depressed (and I can’t imagine if I had a significant other here and children to take care of).


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