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Monday, February 9, 2009

Bursted Bubble

I had a session with my therapist today and we discussed my meltdown last week. I told her I felt like an idiot, that I don't feel confident with anything I do, that I don't feel like I should be in academia, that I hate what I do, etc. etc.

We went through an exercise where we wrote down the emotional thoughts (subjective - see above) associated with that day. Then, with great help from her, we wrote down what is actually happening (objective). This helped me realize that I'm actually doing quite well: I'm on track to finish my PhD on time, I have a paper published already and another on the way, I have a strong work ethic, and I write and present well.

There are two things that I learned about myself during this session:

1. I really cannot take a compliment; especially about my intelligence. She kept saying that I was smart, bright, etc., and I kept telling her why I'm not. What is wrong with me? Definitely something I need to work on.

2. My work environment has completely sucked all the love and joy I ever had for Astronomy research. I really loved it during my masters and all I wanted to do was become a professor. I felt that way in my first year of my PhD, but it's been downhill ever since.

I'm coming to the realization that this department has destroyed my opinion of academia (both the work and the people). I hear professors and grad students from other universities claim how great things are in their department and how much they love what they do and I think they're delusional - that they're just BSing me or they haven't been there long enough to understand what's going on.

Again, what is wrong with me? I loved it once - why don't I believe that other people might too? And where has my love gone? Is it still there, just hidden under all the bitterness I've acquired since I've been here, or has it truly disappeared? I know there is some love still there, bubbling under the surface, because it comes out when I do outreach. So, now I start to wonder that perhaps I should try to work in a different department after I am done so that I can test whether it really is my environment or if the love is really gone.

It's not just my love for astronomy that has waned since I've moved here - everything seems dreary and gray. Not that I was all puppy dogs and roses before, but I was a much happier person in general. I guess that's what happens when you're surrounded by negative-ninnies all the time: people who refuse to believe that I can finish my thesis on time because "no one else" has, or tell me that writing a paper or thesis sucks (I love writing - screw off!), or argue that their personal experiences are actually fact and everyone will go through the exact same thing (open your minds, you droids!).

I need to learn how to not let outside forces influence how I feel about my work and my life in general. I need to find a way to get that love and excitement back in my life before I shrivel up, or worse, become one of them.