Following a spirited round of applause and after the attendees stopped inundating my friend with celebratory handshakes and pats on the back, the newly-minted Ph. A week or so later, during one of our telephone conversations, my friend marveled at how his mood, which had so recently been practically ecstatic, had morphed into something far less pleasant. He was, he admitted, depressed. In fact, he likened his sudden, unexpected emotional turn to the post-partum depression some women experience after giving birth.
Although he could not see me do so, I nodded. And, boy, did I nod. I nodded because my friend's comments reminded me of two unrelated conversations I had had over the past few years. The first conversation I recalled was between a friend of mine and myself, a year or so before I completed my own doctoral dissertation.
She was employed by Cornell University and worked in one of the school's most well-funded programs. Not surprisingly, she had, in her decade or so of working at one of the top universities in the world, gotten to know a good many brilliant doctoral students who'd written some truly spectacular dissertations. When I expressed the very typical doctoral student desire to just be done with the damn thing already, she drew upon her years of experience among those bright young men and women and told me, in no uncertain terms, to be careful what I wished for.
The second conversation that immediately popped into my mind while chatting with my melancholic friend took place a couple of years after I had completed my dissertation, as I sat around a dinner table with a few fellow professors and reminisced about graduate school. The four-and-a-half years or so I spent grafting away at my studies were an extraordinarily intense experience; tremendously hard work, of course, stimulating, frustrating, depressing and exhilarating in equal measure, but ultimately personally very rewarding.
Passing the viva so convincingly was truly a high point. I felt on top of the world. A PhD represents a pinnacle of learning, a measure of achievement to which considerable amounts of time and effort, as well as emotional commitment, have been devoted.
More worryingly, will your efforts be good enough to convince the examiners that you are worthy of a doctorate? A doctorate provides status in a society that values success. No wonder the sense of triumph at the end can be so potent, and the glow of personal pride so strong. I have to admit being disappointed in the glow of my viva success not to have received greater recognition from my employers. The endless, grinding work at least temporarily abates and you rediscover what it is like to have a social life and see the outside world.
But losing the status of being a student also impacts you in all kinds of mundane ways. I have to remind myself that a student discount is no longer a perk applicable to me.
My library and journal access and VPN login mostly used, it must be admitted, to watch TV whilst on holiday are gone. The several thousand emails I amassed have been hurriedly copied over to my personal account before my address disappears into the ether, although I dread to think how many unrecoverable passwords, linked to that account, I will encounter in future. I feel as though I have been forcibly expelled from an academic community that sustained me for a long time. There have been other impacts, too: not uncommonly, I dropped a stone in weight in fairly short order after submitting and reverting to a non-biscuit based diet.
These all add up to some individually minor, but collectively quite substantial, changes to my daily routine. However, there are all the shows that you kept hearing about during the past 3 or so years to catch up on.
So indulge! Get rid of some lists and be spontaneous. The predominant post-thesis-submission rhetoric is to prepare, conquer, publish, contact, plan strategically and be ready for the next job, postdoc, or funding opportunity.
I find such an approach problematic. Indulging in leisure and doing nothing is not just a form of resistance towards a culture of compulsive workaholism and the glorification of busyness. I propose an alternative of staying with the experience and moving out of it slowly, with potentially greater long-term benefits for both health and career. Parsons, G. Crisis at the summit.
Identity Crisis Most Ph. The people?
In fact, this blog is the outcome of my own PhD blues where I needed something meaningful, creative and interesting back in my life. I mentioned my old friend's ominous "be careful what you wish for" comment and admitted to having felt depressed after completing what was, essentially, a very successful part of my academic career.
Laugh it out Remember the first time you gave a talk on your work? And the PhD taught me a series of life lessons in tenacity that have made me a more sympathetic, hardworking and resilient person. Identity Crisis Most Ph. Related posts. It's not a perfect analogy, to be sure, but it does capture the sense of shock an individual must negotiate upon transitioning from one role to another. Then, one day, they're no longer a student.
Or do you have plans on how to avoid it? We should, of course, aim to get the best out of our hard-worn qualification whatever our circumstances.
Do more of what makes you feel good. I had always harboured an ambition to do a PhD, but it seemed unlikely that a suitable opportunity would ever arise. This is, of course, a caricature, but my point is that many people attribute the aspects of their lives with which they are dissatisfied to their status as underpaid graduate students writing dissertations. The four-and-a-half years or so I spent grafting away at my studies were an extraordinarily intense experience; tremendously hard work, of course, stimulating, frustrating, depressing and exhilarating in equal measure, but ultimately personally very rewarding. I feel as though I have been forcibly expelled from an academic community that sustained me for a long time.