Sunday, September 30, 2012

Grad school's not baseball--there's plenty of crying

Several times over the past few days, I have owned up to just how much crying I've done while in grad school about grad school.  It's strange, isn't it, how much crying we do here?  Or is it more that there's plenty of crying in "real life," but graduate school can be so all-consuming that most things that I would cry about end up somehow related to school now. 

I think part of it--a part that I'd like to figure out a way around--is the sense of pressure, the sense of a clock ticking and you have to be teaching and grading and doing coursework/studying for exams/writing the diss while still keeping current on scholarship/writing conference papers/publishing articles/working on the job docs/networking.  With the clock ticking.  And people not in graduate school thinking that you just spend your days writing on blackboards and reading in your pajamas.

I guess the thing is, I've cried because of the stress and strain of other jobs.  I'm trying to figure out why grad school seems different.   Perhaps it's partly because in other jobs, people bitch about all of the parts of their lives; in graduate school, we bitch about graduate school.  Teaching, teaching assignments, conspiracy theories about teaching assignments, job docs, student emails, conspiracy theories about the job market, what a prospectus is supposed to be, conspiracy theories about committees...While on the one hand, I've thought that the answer to a lot of this stress is more of a sense of academic community and department engagement, I'm wondering if there's a risk of too much conspiratorial energy accumulating with too much community, or if the lack of community leads to such thinking. 

What I'd like to do is to feel okay with the clock ticking, realize that it's going to tick whether I'm in grad school or not, whether I go to jazzercise or read a journal article.  Whether I do another revision or not.  And at any moment, I can go and get a job as a secretary, an adjunct teacher, even a women's center director.  And readers' reviews are that way because it's the convention, not because I'm actually stupid.

So, what's a healthy attitude toward graduate school?  Or is there one?  Is it simply an unhealthy situation?


  1. I'm the job doc bitcher!
    I don't know -- something about the solitary nature of the work seems different to me. Plus, people in grad school are SUPER competitive in a way that's off-putting so you never feel like you're good enough. Because there's always something more you could be doing and (let's face it -- that someone else IS currently doing). And, the thing is -- grad school constantly makes you (me) feel like I'm not smart enough/good enough/capable enough/privileged enough/whatever enough. So, maybe that's just saying more about me and my insecurities, but, then again, it's kind of built into the profession as a whole, so, yeah. In conclusion, always go to jazzercise (yoga for me).

  2. Exercise ftw! I wonder if perhaps consciousness-raising about this? Maybe a structured exercise in comparing experiences might lead to some sort of epiphanies?

  3. I do think knowing that other people feel similarly is helpful. Because I imagine everyone else easily breezing along with never once calling into question their self-worth. In fact, just this morning, I was lamenting how long it took me to read and was wondering whether I was somehow stupider than everyone else. Again, this probably says a lot about me, but it seems somewhat consistent among most grad students (and faculty?) too...