random thoughts

29Nov08

So I’m back: back to the US for a few months, back to my university for a short visit, and back to blogging for the time being. I have a lot of thoughts about my research trip and my life, of course, but for the moment, I’m finding myself in yet another moment of panic about my progress through my program. I’ve spoken with several of my friends and colleagues about my halting research progress and how I haven’t felt comfortable discussing these issues with my advisor (who I haven’t spoken to since May). My friends and colleagues all understand that I can’t really bring up my personal issues with my advisor, even as those personal issues impact my professional life, and they’ve all asked me if I have other professors with whom I can speak more freely. And herein lies the problem: because I spent my first year of graduate school taking classes that had nothing to do with anything that I work on and subsequently floundered in those courses, I really don’t have any connections with professors other than my advisor and the other member of my committee (in my program, we don’t have to fill our committee until much later in the writing process). I have a decent relationship with my first reader but even that relationship is strictly a business relationship. I don’t have a mentor in the program. At this point, in my fourth year, I can’t even list three references from this university on a CV. That’s not good.

I usually take every opportunity I have to beat myself up and so of course I blame myself for not realizing exactly what I needed to do in my first few years in the program. Clearly my main priority should have been to create relationships with several professors in the program, relationships that would have turned into a valuable support network over the years. I should have been more aware of the fact that my personal problems would require having at least one professor who I could be more frank with. But it’s unclear who I would have turned to and without a clear reason for speaking to someone (i.e. I’m interested in some of the same themes or time periods or regions as you), I’m too shy and insecure about my work to make random contact with professors whose work is completely unrelated to my own. Anyway, it’s really neither here nor there: those years are behind me and I’m in the middle of this mess. I feel isolated and completely detached from the process and my department. I know with fair certainty that I’m not really ready to be on the job market next fall but the idea of spending a sixth year as a graduate student leaves me cold.

And there’s another issue: it’s time I got past the emotional baggage I’ve been carrying around for several years. I’ve been in counseling for a few years now, through my university’s health service, and it’s been a struggle, mainly because I’m terrified of falling apart. There’s no good time to fall apart and I certainly know that if I don’t do it now, it’ll happen when I don’t want it to. But again, I have no good options. I can’t afford counseling in London and an archival trip really isn’t the time to go through a lifetime of emotional baggage. I could postpone my second archival trip to do it but I really need to be done with graduate school as soon as possible; dragging it out only compounds my problems. I could take a leave of absence but there’s no short-term job I could find that would pay me enough to pay for expensive counseling as well as providing full medical, dental, and vision benefits, things I unfortunately can’t do without. And taking a leave of absence would require switching therapists and I need continuity. I don’t really know where I’m going with all of this but I feel trapped between a rock and a hard place in too many aspects of my life. It’s really not a good feeling.

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2 Responses to “random thoughts”

  1. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Are there some mentors from undergrad that you could connect with for some advice? Also, could you start to cultivate a mentoring relationship with someone from your committee that you feel the most comfortable with? I don’t think it’s ever “too late” to start that kind of thing. It takes time of course, but it’s something you can start building.

  2. 2 thefrogprincess

    I didn’t mention this but the one saving grace in this whole thing is that I do have some professors I worked with in college that I’ve gone to for advice and they’ve been immensely helpful and supportive. They don’t work in my field, though. As for my committee, I only have two professors at the moment (that’s how my program works). When it comes time to pick the remaining members of my committee, this is something I’ll have to keep in mind but it may be that I have to look for a mentor outside my department. What I really need to find is someone who I feel comfortable with but who also works in my field. You’re right, though, it isn’t too late, even though the drama queen in me says it is.


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