Half done, or half left?
With the end of the term, I’m dealing with a lot of complex emotions. Maybe it’s the fact that my funding is running out soon and I need to come up with options before I take (at best) a significant pay cut. It could be the fact that my research, the stuff I REALLY want to do seems to keep slipping further away from me. It may even be because I’m still, STILL trying to get my papers published and it’s just disheartening. Whatever the reason, I’m at the halfway point and I’m just not sure what I’m feeling exactly.
Welcome, if you’re new around here and even if you aren’t a short intro wouldn’t hurt. I’m a third year PhD candidate in neuroengineering. My research involves understanding communication between the brain and spinal cord and how that communication changes in the event of a spinal cord injury. The blog was originally set up to find people who needed prosthetics, in my downtime I build and design one off, custom pieces to help people who cannot afford to get one through other means. Now I’m doing something I like to call 365 days of academia, it’s my daily blog about my life in the PhD program. I’ve been doing this for almost a full two years now and I’ve gotten some amazing feedback from people, so thank you if you’ve ever reached out it means the world to me. Most of the time I talk about my horrible mental health and how I cope, but I also teach, share stories, and (mostly) talk about somewhat boring things.
With the end of the term I’ve finished my third year in the program officially, but I like to count the end at the start of the fall term, since that’s when I started. It feels simultaneously like I just started and I should’ve finished awhile ago. There’s just a lot going on all the time, I feel like I’m running on a hamster wheel or something. I’m working as hard as possible and I’m getting nowhere, fast.
Like I said complex emotions. I know that I’ve made progress, I know that I have time to finish, even if my goal is five years there’s nothing to say I can’t take slightly longer, especially given the last year or so with the pandemic. I know all these things, but my brain still decided to question what I’ve done with my life and why I’m not further along in the program. Stupid brain, what good has it ever done me?
Being at the halfway point to my degree, or at least what I’m considering the halfway point even though 2.5 years would’ve been the real halfway mark, is tough. I see people ahead of me where I really want to get and I’m just not there yet. Of course I see people just starting and I feel very much like I’m still way back there too. It’s a point where you’re not wrapping up, but you’ve been in the program for long enough that you’re wondering why you haven’t reached that point.
I know everyone’s journey is different. We had people take 8 or so years to finish in our lab. In fact, we’ve had two people graduate who had been there for about 8 years each and I know one person who’s been in the program for six who is roughly at the same point I am. So I know I’m making progress, it’s just hard with my main-PI pushing me to hurry then holding me back because he wants me to do something else first.
Anyway that’s where I’m at today. Somewhere at the midway mark in my degree wondering if I’ll hit the five year goal, if it will take significantly longer, or if I will even make it at all. Days like today are exactly why I take the summer to decompress. I’m sure it will all work out, but if I don’t get the thoughts out then they tend to get worse.
Blogging, cheaper than therapy (Full disclosure, I’m in therapy too, no judgement here).