PhD or Die Trying: The Stress-Testing Semester

scientology stress test
Giving a stress test by MutantFrog

After seeing plenty of beady-eyed freshmen prepping themselves for their first college experience here at UB, I’m reminded of the excitement I once had coming here to study. I never had prior visits to Buffalo, but thanks to some helpful souls, I got settled down pretty fast. As I recalled, it was quite a good experience.

Now, contrary to how I once felt fresh off the boat, this Fall semester is going to get really bloody for me. While others go merrily about their classes, I’ll be sweating buckets worrying over getting things done in time. If I thought writing during the summer break was hard, writing while sitting in on classes (which I’ll be teaching next time) as well as re-taking that forsaken Advanced Stats class, all while working as usual, is going to be like putting my brain in sixth gear with a broken pedal to the metal.

As my advisor once warned me, taking up a PhD isn’t something you do out of fancy. I think he was trying to tell me that it has to literally be your calling. Thing is, I would have never known if I had not tried it. Now that I’m in it, do I know?

Being the only surviving Informatics graduate student to crossover to the Communication department for the doctoral program, I feel privileged but frowned upon at the same time. Frankly speaking, my interest in the social media doesn’t seem to lend me strong ties with my traditional communication faculty. Other than my advisor who’s a maverick in his own right, I doubt anyone there really understands or appreciates what I am trying to accomplish. Getting the typical “I thought you graduated” from the very faculty whom you work under isn’t exactly heartwarming either.

At this point you might be wondering what’s the point of me telling you all this. Perhaps I’m looking for some advice to making it all work. I feel like I’m fire-fighting everyday as I try to write but end up with blank sheets of paper. The worst thing is that the longer this goes, the more dissimal I feel as I grow older with loved ones waiting on me.

Time is running out.
No, I shouldn’t quit.
Not without a fight.

8 thoughts on “PhD or Die Trying: The Stress-Testing Semester

  1. A proportion of the population excel under this “Do or Die” situation. ie: we dont break down under stress/pressure/super tight deadline. Refer to the chinese idiom “????”, (break the cauldrons, sink the boats), leaving people with no exit strategy. A real life scenario where i came across was a guy reading his notes besides a trash bin outside the exam hall. As he finish each piece of the his notes, he throw them away, its pure determination of not coming back again for that paper. Total admiration for his courage.

  2. Sacrelicious’ post reminds me of people I know who would throw away their notes and books the second after they finish their exams. I, on the other hand, keep mine for ages for fear of needing to know some obscure math equation I learnt in my freshman year.

    Afterall, seeing as how I’ve forgotten almost everything I’ve learnt in college except what I use for my job (which is a small portion of what I learnt in college), my notes are the only proof that I actually knew some of that stuff before.

    I don’t know many words of encouragement other than to say: think what your 80-year-old self would wish happen when he was your age. Would he have viewed this as one of the biggest accomplishments in his life that was worth the fight and effort? Could he live with the facts if things turned out otherwise?

  3. Kevin! A lot of people appreciate what you’re doing. Some of them are students, some are alums, and some are probably LIS faculty!!! Keep going and don’t worry about all the other crap. Your research is important and maybe one reason for what’s left of COM being sent back to CAS is they don’t realize it. Also it could be a compliment that they thought you graduated… you know? j

  4. I keep my notes… some day they might go into a museum ­čśŤ

    My main worry is how much longer I’ve to be here. I’m not getting any younger and people of my age (reaching 30s) are married, with established careers. I do think about regrets and whether I could live with them, and the easy answer would be to just keep plugging away. If I keep going though, I fear that I lose sight of the bigger picture of what I want in my future. It’s quite obvious that I feel underpowered to get the job done. Right now writing feels like solitary confinement.

  5. Dude, just wanna say when the going gets tough i always remind myself its just the “grass is always greener syndrome”…End of the day we just want it all!

    I’m sure you’ve gone this far(and u have, figuratively and literally) cos u enjoy wat u do… hang in there man!

  6. kevin, you believed in yourself, that’s why you are here. don’t lose hope halfway. it’s not about your friends and relatives and loved ones, it you will YOU yourself you will be disappointing if you lose hope. don’t live life with regrets either, because the grass is always greener on the other side.

    let me tell you a story… my uncle went through masters, then a doctorate in haemotology (sic), but failed them all the first time around, and sometimes 2nd time around. he had wife and children, and had bare minimum pay back then. but he moved along with it regardless. i won’t say he’s successful now, because i don’t know how’s business for him, but i know he’s happy.

    get through this!

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