The Writing of a Thesis: The Isolation

I never realized how social grad school actually is until I started writing my thesis. It’s a silly thing not to have thought about before, but never the less, these past few weeks have brought to mind how much I usually get to interact with people at the lab, and how essential that is to me.

I’m a few weeks into thesis writing and it’s been a bit of a slog. As I mentioned, it is taking a lot longer than I expected with less quantifiable progress being made than I had hoped. But I’m slowly getting it done, bit by bit. However, one of the things I’m currently struggling with is this self-imposed but seemingly necessary isolation. To write I need to focus, so I’ve been taking full days away from the lab to sit at home or at a coffee shop to really concentrate. It’s 100% necessary because I would never be able to get any tangible work done in the lab. And yet, I find myself craving human interaction, slightly more substantial than the (though lovely) Starbucks barista taking my order.

The solution seems obvious, simply seek out my friends and co-workers. And it is that simple, especially this time of year when there are a plethora of holiday events that I can and do attend. But sometimes I’ll start to feel guilty that I’m not writing, that since not enough progress is being made I shouldn’t be taking these breaks. And it’s not the same as the regular day-to-day atmosphere of the lab. I’m pretty lucky that I really enjoy working with my lab mates. They are awesome people as I’ve repeatedly stated, and I have lots of friends on the floor and elsewhere in the building that I can stop and chat with. However, I never really thought about how important that was.

And it is important. We sometimes talk about mental health and grad school, and there have been a couple good posts on the subject here and here, so this is yet another reminder that I need to take care of myself while writing this thesis. In truth I’ve gotten into some bad habits. I find I’m more productive in the evenings so I’ve gotten into this weird schedule of writing late into the night and sleeping late the next day. Add in the fact that it’s pitch black by 4pm and I feel like I don’t get to see the sun all that often. My vitamin D intake is definitely low. Along with a lot of other vitamins because I haven’t been eating as well as I normally do.

So being aware of the pitfalls I’m going to try my best to avoid them. I know this is a stressful time for a lot of people right now, with exams and comprehensives, etc. So if you’re feeling isolated in your studying or writing remember it’s okay, healthy even, to take a break, hang out with a friend, go get some exercise (oh yeah, something else I’ve been slacking on) and maybe eat an orange. That’s my plan at least! Hopefully it’ll help and I’ll be more productive for it.


Banner Photo by @stocksnap // @pixabay

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