We're a little crazy, about science!

The stress of an education

Art by: DestinyBlue (you should read their story too if you have time)

I’ve got a lot on my plate at the moment. I’m sure that’s probably true for most people, but in academia it’s somehow considered normal that you balance the tightrope of sanity while more and more pressure is added to you. It’s a toxic environment for sure, more so now that COVID and current affairs are gumming everything up.

It hasn’t been an easy life. All I’ve ever really known is suffering, basically from the moment I came into this world. (Don’t worry, I’m getting to a point I promise.) I think my background made me uniquely qualified to pursue higher education. The further you get the more you get piled on and frankly that’s all my life has been, so why not do it more? I also know I’m not unique and can’t perform in an environment like that.

I think that’s why it is so surprising to me that it’s so damn pervasive. Everyone has the same story in academia. You get crushed to dust under the weight of the obligations that get thrust upon you and if you hold out long enough you get an award at the end signifying that you made it. You get a PhD. That doesn’t seem enough for the amount of effort that goes into it, but that’s the system.

Now in the best of times, you can attempt to make this balance out and if you are lucky, you can have something called a work/life balance. Then Trump was elected, things went to shit. COVID hit, things went to even more shit. A SCOTUS seat was filled because the people in power want to keep that power, now we may lose what little healthcare we have, during said pandemic. We also have a whole political party trying to tie the constitution in knots to get what they want. Basically the US is burning.

To be fair, this has started when the nation was founded, it was just a slow moving fire until very recently. Now it feels like too much. Now as a veteran I have no skin in the game when it comes to the ACA. I get free healthcare through the VA and while it’s shit care and they (literally) try to kill me, at least I get care. The reason I care about the ACA has nothing to do with me, it has to do with everyone else. It has to do with the disabled communities, low income communities, even the people who vote against it even though they really need it because they believe the propaganda being spread about it.

To be clear, I care about the ACA because I care about others. I care about who runs our government because I care about others. I want protections for the LBGTQ+ community, BIPOC community, and basically every other minority community, because they need and deserve equal treatment. In the face of all that is going on in the world.

The weight of a PhD on top of all that feels… excessive. Having strict deadlines feels excessive. The thought that we’re supposed to continue as we have feels excessive. The 240,000+ deaths from COVID is definitely excessive. With all this excess, it seems like we should notice it or at least acknowledge it.

All this to say simply, it’s okay if you’re not functioning where you normally are. I sure as hell am not! Everyone deals with stress in different ways, the way you deal with it may be very different from the way I deal with it. It’s easier said than done, but be kind to yourself. If the world is going to crush you to dust, the least you can do is be kind to yourself. That is easier said than done, I know.


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