I haven’t written in a long time because I’ve been swimming in what I’d like to call “Grad School Limbo” or the grey area where you don’t really know where you are and it’s getting difficult to navigate. My primary source of unhappiness has been stemming from the fact that my projects are just not working out. But maybe not exactly…
I’ve always been a perfectionist and found it very difficult to accept failure. I’ve almost always blamed myself, scrutinized my abilities and concluded my own incompetency when things didn’t work out. The simple truth about science is that, well, things hardly ever do work out and it’s nobody’s fault. Despite having been told this before and even reading about it in the context of biographies of all the great scientists in history, it somehow didn’t sit with me. I still believed that anything I can touch will magically be set to work by some mysterious force of hope and light. If you think that’s naive, you are definitely right. So for the past few months, I’ve been in grey limbo of low self-esteem, hopelessness and lots of anger against the fates that set me up with my project!
Despite the negativity of the situation, I have come to perceive it as an important transition period from the innocent childhood-like of being an undergrad to the more mature and somewhat troubled adolescence of being a grad student. That is to say, I feel that I am now crossing the biggest threshold in my academic (and personal) life, through which I am going through the difficult process of shedding my old idealistic beliefs, perfectionism and pretty much everything I’ve ever learned about life. It is a period of re-learning, of changing perspectives and most importantly, of ultimate preparation to the later stages in life (academic or personal) where one will inevitably face even harder challenges.
Like all great battles in history, at the end of this dark tunnel, one comes onto a cross-road: quit or stay and fight. For those who consider quitting, getting a job and doing something else, let me remind you that a lot of great people in history did exactly that and there is absolutely nothing wrong or shameful in that. For those who will stay and fight, I will commend you and cheer you on. In both cases, you are still learning and you will continue to learn.
I am nearing my cross-roads soon, and although I’m writing this entry, I haven’t yet come out of my limbo (there’s still acceptable reception for me to post online). Perhaps events will unfold in such a way that will ease this decision for me but until then, I’m only beginning to see that the way out is simply a change of attitude and adopting the new paradigms that I was fighting against fervently: it’s time to accept failure, make mistakes and let go of unrealistic expectations whether they are from me or an external party.
I will leave you with a final conclusion that I am likely to come back to this sentence and read it over and over again until my false positivity becomes true hope: love yourself, respect yourself and believe in yourself no matter what happens and especially when everything goes wrong.
One thought on “False Positives, False Hope”
Don’t despair, digi-volve! Seriously, I completely sympathize with where you are at.
What is strange to me is that this perfectionist attitude is often what led us into graduate studies in the first place. Once there, realizing that we have to change it means re-evaluating the whole decision… I wouldn’t associate finishing my degree (and going out of academia) as ‘quitting’ though (and I know you didn’t mean it like that :D). I think of it as moving to something else. Nest of luck!