Guilty as charged

Interesting read today. A friend whose procrastinating habits are much more refined than mine* posted a link to this post from GradHacker and, as I had been debating for a while about posting on the very same topic, thought that it would be very appropriately timed of me to do so now. I read the post smiling and nodding sagely with a very knowing air.

I am glad that someone said that out loud – that grad students (or postgrads, in my corner of the world) are experiencing guilt at all stages of their candidature. Obviously, then I went and looked and found a few (very impassioned) more, and noticed (ta-dah!) that actually most of the articles and posts dealing with ‘research life’ are actually strategies to avoid the omnipresent guilt. (Actually, there are several types of guilt – found this very funny list with a few examples).
Really: do the exercise. Google “graduate student guilt” (you have to put in the keyword ‘student’ or else you have to wade through 12-step program sites) and have a read. The comments especially. This one I like very much.

I have been living with guilt for about as long as I have been enrolled in a postgraduate degree. I tell you, they should put it on the Selection Criteria for research degree applications: Ability to cope with constant, overwhelming feelings of guilt (others may include Willingness to renounce old-fashioned notions such as “working hours” and “public holiday” and Proven track-record in self-flagellating techniques…). Guilt doesn’t abandon you. It is always there, nagging, when you’re doing something else instead of…oh, I don’t know, furthering your academic career. I don’t even know what that entails specifically, yet I’m here beating myself up for not doing it: networking, introducing myself to scholars I admire, asking people for advice, recruiting friends and colleagues to read over my work, write, revise, submit, publish, present….anyone else feeling hot in here?

So. I went out and proactively borrowed books about academic publishing, having given up on the idea that now I have a PhD, writing should be easier. They have titles like Writing your Journal Article in 12 Weeks: A guide to academic success (I know, right? Right out of the self-help section. Might as well get He’s Just Not That Into You, while I’m at it).
But the fact remains that I am guilty (no pun intended) of all the most common mistakes: leaving things to the last minute, procrastinating like an addict, avoiding to talk about my research, not sharing my writing with anyone until it’s just so….Then, since my epiphany (or, rather, the realisation that I will never be able to afford a converted warehouse with water views unless I really get cracking on that Professorial contract…) I have been in a total slump. Princess Pumpkin had to stage an intervention with tea & tears to get me to admit that I was scared shitless of the whole academic shebang. I mean, one thing is writing to get a degree, and another is to demonstrate afterwards that you deserved it. But one thing emerges from all this reading academic self-help books and blog posts about guilt: that most people feel the same, and status, seniority, or DIISR points under the belt don’t seem to be significant variables. The other thing is that writing – all sorts of writing – help. Small chunks. Writing for an audience.

Et voilà, there you go, so I’ve been here feeling guilty when I really shouldn’t have because I was doing it all along! I knew this blog would be a good idea….

*She reads PhD Comics, The Thesis Whisperer and InsideHigherEd to pass time. I (used to) just YouTube funny cat videos and makeup tutorials.

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