It’s been quite a while since I decided to air my thoughts on the post-grad experience, and in that time quite a bit has changed. Whilst there is a great deal of good advice out there on the web regarding the gamut of feelings that can assail you, none of them quite adequately express the speed at which you hurtle through the whole range.
Very early on you slip from the joy of stage one (excitement) to the despair of stage two (bewilderment) and then proceed to daily cycle between the two. A look into the running commentary of my brain might sound something like this:
“Yay, I get to read!”
“Argh, I don’t understand”
“Why don’t I understand?”
“I’ll just (insert meaningless leisure activity here) until I feel happier”
“I am the lowest of the low for (meaningless leisure activity).”
“I am a slug”
“You want me to go to a workshop and talk to others about my research?”
“Oooh, thats interesting”
“Where did that book go to?”
But amidst all of this there is hope. I comes in the form of friends being surprisingly interested in what you’re doing. It arrives when you actually connect with another academic. It happens when you realise that if a journal/article is boring you can question its use to you. It springs forth when you use the word ‘gamut’ successfully in a sentence.
This is the hope that will get you through the panic of conferences and workshops and poster presentations. It will remind you that academics are generally not scary ‘others’ who seek to overpower you and challenge your safe research home. They are primarily curious people who enjoy learning, and thats exactly what you are too.
So don’t panic when you start to spiral and if all else fails do what I did: buy some gerbils!