Watch Out Dr. Phil, Here Comes Dr. Luke! The Defense (One Grad’s Greatest Day 6)

I’m writing about a day that hasn’t happened yet, about my future, as though, in doing so, words will conjure a desired outcome:  the granting of my PhD.  A lot is riding on one day, at least that’s how it seems.  Behind that one day lies 40 months of toil.

My presentation is ready and I’ve practised a dozen times.  I’ve read abstracts, papers and books by each and every member of my committee and by all three possible external examiners.  I’ve re-read my own dissertation.  I’ve come up with 10 possible questions that might be asked of me during two rounds of questions.

I’m ready and there’s still a week to go so I’m trying to relax and be calm.  I’ve been planning my PhD ‘recovery,’ a time in early 2011 I’ve blocked off to allow myself to get over the anxiety and stress the last 40 months have produced.  As a graduation present I’m buying new cross-country skis, boots and poles, which I plan to use starting mid-December (snow permitting).

And there’s the ongoing search for gainful employment to keep me busy too.  Until I get a job, I plan to continue coming to McGill campus to work and socialize, attend lab meetings, and just relax outside when the weather improves again.  By then I’ll know if I’ve got a postdoc or not.

I thought about starting a support group for unemployed PhDs.  I think it would be useful to get this issue out in the open, to break down the stigma attached to achieving the highest level of education possible but be faced with post-PhD depression because of the gap between that attainment and the reality of the situation:  a ridiculously competitive job market; overqualification for (and disqualification from) many jobs you might’ve gotten without a PhD; and a poor job market.  This wouldn’t be another PhD support group.  It would be more like group therapy.

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