Tuesday, November 4, 2008

If I knew then...

...what I know now, I probably would have left my PhD a year ago.

Okay, okay. Let me back up a bit.

About a year ago I was having a really difficult time with my PhD. I absolutely hated it. I couldn't concentrate on anything, I couldn't stand going to the observatory to get more data that I didn't want to deal with in the first place, and I didn't see my project working out at all. I was so depressed about it that I was seriously considering dropping out. I took a week off to think about things and spent that time in the career center at the university and scouring the internet for something...ANYTHING...that I could do with the education I had at the time.

I talked to DH, other students and my supervisor. The reoccurring themes were "everyone hates their PhD" and "you'll regret it if you don't finish it." I believed them. Plus, DH had signed up for a post-doc position so that he could stay here while I finished. He did not want to stay here, but did because of me. How could I not finish with that hanging over my head? So, I forged ahead.

Now, a year later, I'm looking back on that decision and realize it was probably the wrong one. Yes, I'm sure everyone hates their PhD, and yes, I'm sure I'd look back and wonder what would have happened if I had finished - but I have been unhappy in my job for the last year. I'm sure I'll continue to be unhappy for the next year too.

What really hits home is what our life would be like if I left a year ago. DH could have declined the post-doc and found a job in industry (which he really wants) in a city other than here (which we both really want). I could have found another career path (a whole other post - stay tuned!) and we could have a family by now.

But, here I am, in my last year of my PhD. I actually don't mind the work now, mostly because I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I'm working on my first paper and will hopefully get another one done in the next couple of months. In spite of this, I feel that I have no motivation other than the fact that I just want to finish.

My mind constantly drifts off to things I'd rather be doing, like writing, teaching, doing outreach, or raising a family, and trying to figure out how and when I can do those things.

Less than a year...less than a year...