Sunday, December 28, 2008

In which I discuss how I am hot shit

I have been working a long time on a particular problem (duh, I am a late-year graduate student). You might recall that I recently had a paper deadline in which I worked desperately to the end but it didn't seem to work out. I was extremely disappointed.

Since then I have continued to work on this problem - basically I had a theory and gobs of analysis to support this theory, but when it came time to test the theory there were all sorts of problems. The results didn't line up. They in fact, flat out sucked. So I have been troubleshooting and troubleshooting, panicking and panicking, putting out fire after fire and finally, finally, I got some


I have finally got results that make sense considering the oodles of preparatory analysis I've done. I finally can be confident about what I've been spending my time doing. Lately I've been so stressed that in the back of my mind was always the thought that I would end up as some sad sack who worked many years on a PhD but just couldn't get 'er done. I thought, "if it came down to it, would I quit or would I continue knowing I had to start anew and take a few more years?" It was making me break out, both in zits and in fever blisters. As someone who as only ever had 3 fever blister breakouts in the last 8 years, I have had 3 since my paper. Mr. PhizzleDizzle is about going crazy because I won't kiss him when I have a fever blister and that's been 3 weeks in the last two months where I have refused to kiss him. I actually think it's kind of been bad for our relationship.

Fortunately, I think that's over now....finally I'm at a point where I can just finish up some stuff and write it up, maybe do some more experiments but the primary bulk of my idea base has finally been validated. I was so afraid that my analysis was just wrong and I had nothing. Thank FSM that's not true. And I am so so so happy. All results after this is GRAVY.

I feel like I have to reiterate what I said in this post. You really have to persist and just put your head down and suck it up. Truly, my sense of success at this moment has EVERYTHING to do with the fact that when I felt down (and I've felt down, oh, about 30 times in the last 2 months), I did not allow myself to wallow. And let me tell you, I thought about it.

I thought about giving up the thought of academia, because I couldn't take the roller coaster ride, plus I probably would suck at it anyway.

I thought about backing out of the invited talk I am giving soon.

I thought about quitting my degree, despite having put years into it.

I thought about all sorts of doomsday thoughts. I came thisclose to asking my advisor for advice on backing out of the invited talk, particularly given recent difficult news which made me feel like I could not spend the time on troubleshooting this holiday that I needed to.

One thing I do remember thinking though, after my 20th "down" episode was that "well, with the last 19 down episodes I've had 19 ups, so I just have to hold out, keep working, figure this shit out, and then I'll have my up again." It got easier, just knowing this. When I was in high school, I would occasionally have serious teen angst episodes where I felt like life was pointless and I was just going through the motions...not really anything crazy, like I still got out of bed and got good grades and stuff, but I was not getting much joy out of life, which I normally do. After a few of these episodes, all I had to tell myself when I was having one was that one day I would not feel bad anymore, and to look forward to it. And it was true - it always happened, I just had to make it to that day. Not only did my episodes get fewer and far between, they got shorter...until one day, I had my last teen angst episode, around the age of 16. I have enjoyed life pretty much every day ever since, more or less.

ESPECIALLY today :).


The lab pixie said...

High five!

That is really great, wonderful news! Go you. Enjoy the feeling :)

Gail said...

Haha, I love the title! :)

I kinda know how you've felt on a smaller scale (I'm just doing a Masters after all). So far, I've been feeling smug in the thought that what I was doing was an experimental comparison of techniques, with just a bit of theory to check on, so things wouldn't be overly hard.

At this point, I'm instead trying to prove that what I was trying to do actually won't work at all. Next step is to come up with some new way of doing it. I'm ok with that since I still have up to 8 months to finish, but it could be really easy to feel let down and frustrated.

Thanks for sharing your story - I will probably be better able to avoid wanting to quit when the going gets (inevitably) tougher!

PhizzleDizzle said...

Thanks guys. This kind of work can be really isolating, since you work on a project, on your own, for years and you end up feeling so alone and bad. I'm glad you got something out of it Gail...that's why I shared! :)

A very happy new year to you both!!!

Eppendork said...

Rock on with your bad self - love hot science!! and essspeecially when your hot idea proves to be a winner!!!