Monday, June 20, 2011

62. You have no free time.

To an American with only two weeks of vacation per year, the idea that a graduate student has no free time must seem absurd. Not only do graduate students have considerable control over their daily schedules (see Reason 61), but the academic calendar is marked by long breaks at Christmas, in the spring, and in the summer. However, whatever time is under your control is time that you could spend working. For some reason, awareness of that fact makes it hard not to feel that you should be working all the time. When doing something other than working, you may experience a feeling uncomfortably akin to guilt. This is one aspect of the tyranny of the dissertation (see Reason 60). Academic work has a way of burdening your mind on every weekend, every holiday, and every vacation. There is no end to the workday. You are never free.

Of course, your work is more than a mental burden. It is real work. Graduate-student labor obligations (see Reason 7) can consume most of your time during the academic year, making “vacations” precious work opportunities for the research and writing that you have to do in order to graduate. When you are teaching, it can be especially difficult to balance the obligations of your job with obligations to yourself (see Reason 41). Because there is no blueprint for research and writing, figuring out how much work you “need to do” is a process of discovery. There is no limit to the amount of time you can devote to any single work of scholarship, but there is an expectation that you will produce many (see Reason 38). The fact that you have no free time is made worse by the misconceptions of those around you who are (understandably) unaware of the taxing nature of graduate school.



  1. Another great reason--one I could never have fully grasped as a prospective graduate student. It's especially hard when you're working with True Believer workaholic types--no family, no pets, they simply love to work 16 hours a day, through weekends, of course bringing work with on "vacations." And they can't seem to understand why you, with your family obligations and desire to have a normal life, don't also want to spend every waking hour drinking the academic Koolaid. It's perverse and nauseating, and the worst part of all is that a friend who graduated says that the nagging feeling that you're supposed to be doing something "productive" pervades even after you finish the diss. Not that I'm in any danger of finishing, ever...

  2. Very, very good point. I have not been able to enjoy breaks or weekends in a long time. Especially now that I have a real deadline for completing my dissertation. I feel like every waking hour should be dedicated to working on it. I write through weekends. My summer, of course, has been spent and will be spent writing. I am fortunate enough right now not to have any major obligations that structure my time, so I feel like I need to spend all my time working. However, when I do that, burn myself out pretty quickly. One of the most enjoyable jobs I ever had was working in a kitchen. It was tiring, but the results were visible and tangible, and I could go home and completely relax after work. You can never go home and relax as a graduate student, because there is always something you "should" be working on.

  3. I graduated four years ago, have had a tenure-track job for the last three and can say based on my experience that this feeling does not stop when you graduate. In many ways, "wasted" time becomes an even bigger problem when you have a job.

  4. "I graduated four years ago, have had a tenure-track job for the last three and can say based on my experience that this feeling does not stop when you graduate. In many ways, "wasted" time becomes an even bigger problem when you have a job."

    This comment is crucial. The toxicity of our situation isn't limited to the years we spend/waste in grad school. We've signed up for a lifestyle.

    1. I am so glad someone mentioned this. At first I thought "well, I can suffer now to relax later, when I have the job I want"

      I'm realizing more and more that is just NOT true. I'm dropping out, SOON.

  5. Here's a reason I literally have no free time: I live 100 miles from campus. Now to be fair, I knew this was going to blow when I signed up for the thing, but I did pay a bit of attention to the multiple tenured folks who said, "It's only the first two years--after you're done taking classes you won't need to be near campus any more." Well, that's fine if you don't have to TA and don't mind becoming a "ghost" who lacks any connection to the department or campus. Forget about writing groups, colloquiums, meeting younger cohorts with whom you might otherwise connect and/or collaborate. On the other hand, for every day I drive up to campus I spend a minimum of 4.5 hours in the car, usually more. Multiply that by 2-3 days a week for a term and the fully funded folks are getting a whole lot more done or having a whole lot more fun than I am.

  6. To anonymous "June 23, 2011 4:34 PM": that's terrible. 1.5 hour commuting (two-way) everyday is tiring enough for me. Maybe you can consider moving? Remember we have the right and the freedom to CHOOSE... You decide your life. Good luck!
    For the "not enough time" issue, yes it is always there. And even the time spent on research does not guarantee output. Kaboom!

  7. Thanks, Anon 5:41. Yeah, I had an apartment close to campus in Asstown (I go to University of Asstown) for the first two years. Decrepit, noisy one bedroom with foul smelling water cost almost twice my MORTGAGE on a three bedroom house in Civilized City 100 miles away. Problem is that I'm older and married to someone with an established career, and living away from home part time was really messing with my relationship. So I got rid of the pricy tenement and now I commute. I chose the school despite the commute for a number of reasons (faculty, low attrition rate), but none of these have panned out. Faculty in the area I originally applied to study in are A-holes and it looks like I may become the one person in my cohort to drop out despite low attrition rate...oh well...

    Also, commuting is the lesser of two evils (especially since I hate Asstown), but well worth complaining about because the idiots in my department schedule TAships so badly--lecture is at 8:00 a.m. two days a week, but discussion sections are at 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. the same days--makes for 16+ hour days with commute. Or discussion sections will be on a third day, requiring three days of commuting to try to teach somebody else's snotty teenagers.

    Absolutely the stupidest decision of my life.

  8. This reason seems especially appropriate during the summer months when I find myself frozen in the face of everything that I have to do. I can't enjoy a moment of my time, because it feels like procrastination if I do anything other than work on my writing, and yet I have finally come to the realization that I hate doing what is supposed to be my life's work. So, I'm unhappy when I'm working, and I'm unhappy when I'm not working (because I'm not working). What a life.

  9. i didnt go to grad school but it just sounds like entry level work anywhere- where people have to start of on the bottom and get their foot in the door somewhere. who do you think i've been spending my 20's? living it up? i can have a relationship, im broke, have to deal with silly politics, etc... my parent's don't really know what i do... my career trajectory is still being formulated and it could change...

  10. @ Anon June 28 6:20 AM:

    You are partially right.

    Entry level work sucks.

    Grad school also sucks, and there are some areas of overlap ("silly politics") but the two are not equivalent. If you are on this blog because you are considering grad school, you're much better situated where you are right now. Don't fuck up your life like the rest of us did.

  11. Out of curiosity, where don't they overlap? I've pretty much read the entire blog, I've been following this blog for awhile now...

    The experiences of someone who goes to grad school right after undergrad and some who leaves school and looks for work, gets work, relocates, tries to move up from whatever job they get etc… without help (nepotism) from others or connections or anything to fall back on… are pretty similar… The 20’s suck, people just don’t tell you how bad they suck, or how up in the air and random things can get/be… Its the surprise you get to find out.

  12. Free time, or lack thereof, is what you make it out to be.

    I was one of 5 folks who entered my PhD program. 4 years later, 1 dropped out, 1 graduated in 2.5 years (crazy mother-effer on SERIOUS koolaid), I graduated in 4, and the other 2 are still nowhere near to being done.

    I don't know what the story is for everyone else, but in 4 years time, I have managed to teach as many as 8 sections of coursework per semester while working on the dissertation so I could make extra money (I taught over 40 courses in 3 years). I've worked as many as 3 side jobs for 65+ hours (not including academic related stuff) and when I first started academia, I chose a personal life over everything else.

    Still, I finished everything I had to, managed to meet someone wonderful and marry her, all while balancing life and work. I won't lie, this wasn't easy by a long shot. But I already knew after my first year of the PhD program that academia wasn't for me. Maybe that "I-don't-give-a-fuck" attitude helped to ease my anxiety and/or allowed me to enjoy other parts of my life more. I don't know.

    What I do know, though, is that of the people who were seriously hooked, lined, and sinkered into this lifestyle, for all their professional and academic achievements, they were insufferable people to be around and incapable of socialization; most were simply socially retarded in a way that suggests academia was the only way they could ever fit in somewhere. So I actually excommunicated myself from the department and all contact with these people; perhaps that also helped me get my shit done in a timely manner.

    I digress a bit, but despite getting a PhD not leading to the career I thought I wanted, the experience of it all allowed me to meet my wife, come to many important decisions in my life, and has given me a new lease on life that I really don't think would have been possible otherwise. I don't want to suggest that going to grad school for anyone else will produce similar results, but in my case, I did have free time and I was able to enjoy my life. I think the same could be true of anyone else, regardless of whether they drink that academic koolaid.

  13. dear superman 2:21:
    wow! what didn't you accomplish in those 4 short years? oh that's right, you don't mention anything about taking care of other people--kids, older relatives. if you really believe that anyone can enjoy life and have free time, try talking to a grad student with carework to do on top of everything else.

  14. @Anon 2:21 You seem to have hit the sweet spot of success in this business: not taking it seriously while being disciplined about your work. That is a tough balance to achieve, but you did it. Simply awesome.

    @Anon 12:46 There is a lot of overlap between a first job (or first few jobs) and grad school, but grad school just prolongs everything. You're in this weird second-rate (or third-rate) status right until the day you get your Ph.D., and THEN you get to go find your first real job. Believe me, it's better to be doing that in your 20s than in your 30s. Even if you get a college teaching gig (good luck!) you'll probably be an adjunct making less money than you would in a typical entry-level job. I guess you could say that for grad students, your "20s" don't end with your 20s.

  15. @Anon 12:46
    Also, if for example you have a job as a production assistant or some other entry-level position, you are expected to be competent. No one is expecting you to be the world's foremost expert on office copying or to invent a revolutionary new copier.

    Grad students are being trained as independent scholars and are expected to become learned authorities in their areas. We are expected not only to read but know all the literature in our areas. Decades worth of material, depending on your discipline. When you go home from your entry-level position, do you spend your evenings and weekends reading copy machine manuals and brainstorming about how to improve your copying technique? Is there a culture at your job that suggests that not to do so is shirking?

    I read your assertion that the 20s suck as surprise that up-and-coming folks have to "pay their dues." This is a concept older folks grew up with but which doesn't seem to resonate with a generation who celebrated "graduation" from Kindergarten and received praise and trophies just for trying. But tough it out and you'll be set by the time I and rest of the doctoral students here have graduated and are making less than you are now.

    On the other hand, if you really have read this entire blog, along with the comments, and still don't see any difference between the real world and the ivory tower, you may just have the kind of teflon obliviousness that seems to be required for attaining a PhD.

    1. I am mid-career now, and I was considering grad school after being laid off from my director job and replaced with a teenager. (Isn't recession grand?) I work in the "T" portion of "STEM," and there are a couple schools that do what I do, but all are awfully expensive, and would almost be review for me because I have done so much with my career. I've also always been kind of old for my age, and would feel especially out of place at this point in my life, studying with 23-24 year-olds.

      I just wanted to comment that once you get past the entry level and climb the management ladder in the professions, if you have a certain type of personality (a pleasing one, or were a victim of child abuse, etc.), are female, and/or have severe career and money insecurity based on where you live – and I have all three issues – your work will override your life.

      Tech sucks, there's no way around it. (In fact, I could tell you a lot about STEM, as my whole family works in it, to suggest it ain't "better" on the other side, away from liberal arts!) The software veers far away from the development schedule, and I've worked 90-hour weeks, working myself into illness. When we didn't have those awful weeks, I was either on call constantly, or reading stacks and tomes of management, UX, and code books. Just an awful way to live life.

      I say this, I guess, to offer academics and new grads entering the cruel world of work with their BAs some consolation: often it isn't any better on "the other side" when you "climb the ladder." It's best, based on what I've experienced, not to get promoted at all. No money in the world is worth giving up your life, and when the job dumps you, as it likely will in an era of corporate greed and "throw 'em out once they're 'over the hill'" culture, you will suffer a serious self-esteem blow.

  16. @Anon 2:42 I am the OP from Anon 2:21.

    A few points you should consider:

    I'm not superman, but I do know how to manage my time. When it comes to work, I approach much of it with a cost-benefit-analysis; calculating how much time and effort I need to invest in relation to the results I am satisfied with. In my case, I needed at least a 3.75GPA to keep my TA-ship; I did exactly what I needed to make that happen and didn't sweat the bullshit of endless revisions that only one self-absorbed professor would ever read. If I cared more about academia, I might have tried a little harder for that 4.0.

    You're right, I didn't mention anything about taking care of other people. What of it? I need to offer a disclaimer of my life story in order to qualify the perspective I was offering in relation to having (or not having) free time? But for the record, I took on the extra jobs so I could help my mother; she was one of the unlucky ones who lost her job and has been unemployed now for 4+ years since the real estate industry imploded. I was also working with kids at the high school level so they could qualify for college and be the first in their family to attend; while not the same as having kids of my own, the welfare of those kids I did work with still involved time I could have been appropriating elsewhere. Your definition of "carework" may be more involved than mine, and I commend you for your commitment to help those you care about. But you should also reconsider judging people you know nothing beyond the speculations you project onto them.

    And Yes, I really do believe anyone can enjoy life and have free time. Unexpected responsibilities and preexisting commitments may get in the way of that happening as we would like at times, but it's all about choices and trade-offs. I made mine and I got what I needed to get done while enjoying myself in the process. I don't know the extent of your situation, but I can reasonably bet that the only thing really stopping you from doing what you want to do is you. And I don't mean that as a put-down or as something bad; you chose to take care of other people as opposed to taking care of yourself. I'm sure you have your reasons, but those reasons are not mine or anyone elses fault either.

    @Bo I am hesitant to say I found the happy medium, but I don't regret putting my wife and my life over the endless bullshit that involves grad school either. Besides, academia is already a sinking ship and it seems completely insane to me to sacrifice everyone and everything dear to me for a profession that could give two shits about the unemployed, the publish or perish mentality, or the academic industrial complex that unrealistically demands more of us all than most could ever give. First chance I got to jump ship, I never looked back. Maybe that's considered success in comparison to some, but for me, I just call it survival.

  17. @ Horatio Alger--ahem! I mean Anon 1:14

    "You're right, I didn't mention anything about taking care of other people. What of it? I need to offer a disclaimer of my life story in order to qualify the perspective I was offering in relation to having (or not having) free time? "

    You don't need to justify anything to anyone. Until you start implying that anyone can do X if they just put their mind to it. No. They can't.

    There are structural obstacles that make attaining certain goals, especially within a certain timeframe, virtually impossible for many people. Ongoing caregiving activities can be one of them. So can obstructionist advisors and nightmare departments. In a department with a 50% attrition rate and 11 year mean-time-to-degree, the problem isn't that the 50% of students who stay just don't have the mental fortitude to plan their time well--the problem is structural. If you were in my department, I guarantee you wouldn't have been out in four years.

    You're making an argument connected to a larger discourse valuing Individuality and Reason and Personal Choice. This way of thinking about things is often counterposed to a way of thinking that emphasizes interdependency, as well as social structure. I pointed this out.

    My impression is that people read this blog because they're smart enough to do some nosing around before applying grad school, or more often because they are miserable grad students and are seeking some community. I'd be surprised if anybody here really wants to read posts along the lines of "Sure it sucks, but you can just do it if you try hard and are logical about the whole thing. In fact, I graduated really fast and achieved a tremendous amount and you can too. And if you don't, you simply chose not to do so." The only thing really stopping me from doing what I want to do ISN'T me. And to imply that misses the point of the entire blog, ignoring reasons 1-61. People who struggle or "fail" in grad school are told by just about everyone that it's they're fault--they should have tried harder, made better choices in order to attain their goal. This blog is a forum for countering that discourse by illuminating the structural aspects which, for many, rig the game before it's begun.

  18. @Debbie Downer, eh, Anon 5:21

    It's interesting you would say something like "You don't need to justify anything to anyone," but then proceed to judge anyone who isn't you or living your set of circumstances. Apples and oranges dear.

    Still, I'm not saying, and if you actually read my first posting carefully, that anyone can achieve the same results as me. What I did say, implied, am saying now and continue to believe is this: everything we do comes down to choices. There are structural obstacles involved in the choices we make, yes, but you STILL have a choice in how you wish to proceed. Nobody is twisting your arm and forcing you to stay in academia. Nobody put a gun to your head to help your loved ones. You're doing something very noble, much more and beyond what most people would do, but structural obstacle or not, you made your choice as an intelligent adult. You may have decided that staying in academia is a better idea than leaving what you started, but what all of this fundamentally means is that for better or for worse, you take the good with the bad and accept the consequences. That's how this being an adult thing in the real world works.

    Again, I don't know the details of your situation, your school/program, or the specifics of what you're up against, but it seems clear to me that you are particularly judgmental towards the success of those whom have overcome obstacles you could not do, as you noted for structural reasons, yourself. I sympathize. I realize not everything is as easy as making something happen because you will it so. But I also have seen as well as experienced remarkable feats because the truly motivated refused to allow anything to stop them. In my estimations, that's the difference between those that do and those that don't. Irrespective of challenge, those that do have a can-do attitude and persevere because they continue to believe in themselves and fight for what they want. I know I got lucky, but I also know that what I achieved is not impossible for anyone else to do either.

    Still, as you noted, yes, I am making an argument connected to a larger discourse valuing individuality, among other things. And as you further pontificate, sometimes failure and personal struggle is because the game is rigged from the start. Hence why I jumped ship early on myself. But I knew the risks and still decided to play. You can claim that others did not know said risks so you, much like the OP of this blog, are out to warn potential would-be grad students thinking the life of the mind might be worthwhile. That's fine, throw your .02 into the mix as I am doing the same. But I stand by my original statement that if you really want to finish that dissertation in a timely manner, you won't let obstructionist advisors and nightmare departments stand in the way of your goal. Again, I got lucky, but if this whole process was supposed to be easy, convenient, and/or not without its set of challenges, then you might be equally guilty of sipping on the "woe-is-me" koolaid.

  19. "There are structural obstacles that make attaining certain goals, especially within a certain timeframe, virtually impossible for many people."

    People don’t realize this ^. They just want to think about their own tiny lives I see this everyday. I live in a poor part of the city. After leaving school I couldn’t find a job. I just found a whole bunch of can’t save anything, fall on your face temp jobs. I even became homeless for weeks at a time. I’ll probably be alright. The people around me though probably never had a chance from the start…

    "You're making an argument connected to a larger discourse valuing Individuality and Reason and Personal Choice. This way of thinking about things is often counterposed to a way of thinking that emphasizes interdependency, as well as social structure."

    ^Its too hard for people to think in this manner and maintain the concept of themselves that they have formed…

  20. @7:54 Dah, tanks for da advice, mister, I never thought of dat. Try harder... just do it. Dah...I forgot to choose right. Tanks!

    Debbie Dum-dum

  21. Clearly Mr. I can do it all does is not the kind of person who needs 8-9 hours of sleep a night.

    Also, if all there is to it is "just do it" and "make the right decisions," by all means please share what "it" is, and what's the "right" decision. Or at least explain how one comes to recognize it.

    I would love to take your advice, Anon @7:54, but I get mentally fatigued before I can make it to that point.

  22. While I was in grad school (PhD in < 4 years) I worked several outside jobs. I managed to teach over a dozen classes as instructor of record. And I published 8 articles in top-ranked peer reviewed journals.

    I found all this a bit too easy, so then I swam the English Channel in February, fire-walked in the Bahamas, and won a Pulitzer. If the Nobel committee is well-informed, I'll likely be getting some more good news later this year.

    In the meantime, I have to go. I'm training to become an astronaut.

  23. Next Reason:
    If you do graduate from the program at what cost to your social, family, and personal life? Was it worth it? Or do you find yourself hating the same field you chose to dedicate yourself to. Not because it was too hard, but because the system is full of politics

    1. I don't agree with this entry (number 62). People in universities do end up having free time, one has to publish or do research, but one can also get away from it (and no one is looking). That is not the essential problem with the academic world. The big problem in the academic sphere is politics.

  24. Here's a different angle on graduate education. I was middle-aged and working at a mid-level writing/editing job that required 45 hours a week. I managed to have a family (husband & teen-age son)and complete my undergraduate degree in four years. That was immediately followed by two years for the MA, and followed immediately by 18 more months toward a doctorate. A divorce (that had been brewing for many years) and a grown son, eliminated any home care responsibilities. My job transferred me to the mid-west, where I enrolled again in a doctoral program. I had to use my vacation time, one half day each week. It required driving 70 miles one-way to classes, on that one day a week, from 1 to 11 p.m. (plus spending many hours at various academic libraries in the area). After two years my job moved me south, and I gave up after having completed almost all my course work. I managed to keep a 3.80 gpa, and also taught one night class. After my divorce, and a move to the city where the University was located, I focused all my study efforts from after work to bedtime for five days a week, and took Sundays off to visit with friends and family. After I finally dropped out, it took several years before I was able to read fiction for pleasure. I suffered with a nagging feeling that if I was reading it should be something more "substantial!" Sometimes I've regretted not finishing the doctorate, but it would not have provided me any more money. So I put the same effort into my changing positions, and advanced to a salary that afforded a very comfortable retirement. I don't regret a moment of my education, because I was able to prove to myself that at my age I was capable of graduate work. Since I was already a writer, the writing part of graduate school was comparatively easy for me. My tendency was to over-prepare, and over-research. Also, I never intended to enter academia.

  25. I think the last author touches on a few good points, but before I address them, I'd like to look at the dispute between "Debbie-Downer" and "Horatio Alger." I think that is important to recognize structural and environmental factors as they relate to success-David Hume and other philosophers of the idle class were (are) able to do what they do because they possessed enough resources to not worry about other pressures and devote their lives to reflection and study.

    However, I think problems arise when one falls into the habit of assuming the victim mentality, ascribing external forces to one's failures rather than learning from them and viewing them as opportunities for personal growth.

    Horatio Alger brings up a good point in that as adults, we are ultimately responsible for our decisions. Some realize that they can easily handle graduate school thanks to their natural ability (let's not get into the talent vs. work ethic debate). They recognize their natural talents and capitalize upon them. Others simply aren't suited for graduate-level work; there is nothing wrong with this and to get caught up in comparative ego battles only leads to unhappiness.

    Appreciate your own unique talents-know thyself and work towards your own self-actualization.

  26. No free time, just free lunches :P

  27. Sorry in advance for this bumbling rant, but as for many other commenters, your blog speaks to me.

    After 6 years building a solid career in a solid industry, I decided to "follow my passion" and go for an MA in my humanities subject. I loved the MA and freelanced in my old career throughout to support myself. Then I applied to PhD programs. To be honest, this decision was partially founded on vanity, since my professors were all encouraging me to apply, and one got me to publish a seminar paper in a premiere peer-reviewed journal in my field (a major accomplishment, I later learned, since most of the students in my current dept don't publish at all until after they finish PhD coursework).

    Around the time I got accepted to PhD programs, I also was offered a position where I was freelancing, in a role that was actually above where I'd last left off - so, I would have re-entered my old field with a promotion, seemingly having lost nothing due to my year+ off.

    I foolishly accepted the PhD program, of course. Now in my first semester, the constant worry is killing me. I go to sleep worrying and wake up worrying. Even though I know, practically, that I will get everything done, I still worry. I don't doubt this will effect my mental health in the long term.

    I fear I've made a grave mistake. My husband does very well financially, but if I were in my old career I'd be making about 500% more than my fellowship pays. I'm thinking about how much lost income my choice will make to our household over the next 40 years. Not to mention that I devote far less time to our relationship since I work all the time.

    I feel like it's still early enough to get out, but I feel guilty. I am considering finishing this school year, then leaving. I look at all the people in their 6th, 7th, 8th years, and it's sad. I am just hoping the professors don't hate me for leaving. Unlike most programs, my program's attrition rate is nonexistent, probably due to generous guaranteed 5-year funding.

    Thanks for reading. My rant is over now.

    1. I'm sure you won't see this, being almost a full year later-- but don't feel bad. We all make decisions that sound good at the time, then make a realization. Key word is that I say "decision", not a mistake. I have just been in this boat myself.

      I just graduated with my BA this spring, then started graduate school (wasn't my intention but I'll spare the details) this fall. My heart wasn't into it in the first place, but within a few weeks-- I hated it. I hated that I didn't take more time off from school, I didn't like the program, I didn't like the naivete my cohorts had about academia, and above all I hated that I started the program in the first place under false pretenses and having pressure to go to grad school right away from someone I loved.

      So a month in, I decided to drop-out. I totally felt like a "quitter", a loser etc etc-- but it's a learning experience. It's a mistake to stay in a bad decision rather than if you learn from it and remedy the situation.

      I still feel upset and angry about a lot of things-- but atleast I feel like I made the best choice, even with having had to take out like $15k in loans... Strangely, and despite this blog and all of my rational thoughts-- I may go back to graduate school one day.. I'm plenty young enough, but I'm so glad I am not so idealistic and naive like other people my age (23.)

      Good luck to you!

    2. I'd like to know whether this person ended up quitting or finishing grad school.

  28. This relates to the isolation and lack of community - your peers have only work on their minds. You can see them calculating every situation - how much time is this taking away from my work, how much work could I be doing right now, how could I better use this time for work, is this break/interaction worth taking time away from work?????? When you even say "Hi" to your grad student peers they view you as a leper because you just wasted a slice of precious time that they should be using for studying.

  29. Recently I was reading a post on another blog about "how to get tenure" and it was saying that it's okay to have a hobby (one), but it should be something really exotic and different than your discipline (sky-diving, horseback riding) and definitely not anything like blogging, or writing poetry or volunteering for an organization related to your field -- because those activities which require intellectual effort or disciplinary expertise will be viewed as taking away from the time you should be devoting to scholarship. A lightbulb went on for me: what other career dictates what hobbies you are allowed to do in your free time, or expects you to be devoting the bulk of your free time toward work? That may sound like a "duh" revelation, but it was actually quite enlightening to me. I'm in my third year of a TT job, and I've often wondered whether other people, with other jobs, have as little time to themselves as I do -- wondered how people have time to exercise, or watch TV, garden or do housework, or be politically active or help the needy, or spend time relaxing with family. I worked for 15 years in industry before going back for my PhD and always managed to have an active, fun life outside of work. My life as a grad student, and now junior faculty member, coincided with me having children, so I've thought maybe it's just having kids that has made it seem like all I do is work. ( I worked hard in grad school, but I honestly thought once I had a faculty job, I would have summers and vacations with my kids). I see now that so many of my colleagues look at the summer and three-day weekends not as time to kick back, but time to get more work done. (Note to colleagues without kids: please don't ask me whether I "got a lot of work done" on MLK Day or Labor Day -- my kids were home from school and there was no daycare. Babysitters were also not available, because, you know -- it's a freaking holiday). For a while, the simultaneous timing of becoming a parent and becoming an academic confounded things for me, but I've now come to the realization that working every night and weekend and feeling guilty if I walk my dog or read something not work-related is not how the world lives -- it is only how my academic colleagues live. It's already taken a toll on my health and my relationships and the light I'd hoped for at the end of the tunnel is simply not there. Even though I've met all the research and teaching metrics I was told to meet, and I am really well liked in my department, I recently had my third year review and was told I'm not producing enough publications. I can't possibly work any more hours than I'm working now, and there's absolutely no guarantee, if I could, that it would result in tenure. (Super vague, totally subjective tenure documents in my department. Do I need 10 articles or 50 to go up for tenure successfully? No idea. I aimed for the goal posts I was told to aim for -- something in the middle of that range -- but now it "may" not be enough). F--- this sh*t. This has been a huge waste of time, at a huge opportunity cost versus what I could have earned in my previous life and the hours of my life I could have been enjoying. I'm getting out before it's too late.

  30. The first two years of my PhD program were hell. Some of it was self-inflicted worry, but a lot of it honestly wasn't. No one talks about how many classes they were taking, but generally I had to take 4 (unless I was TA'ing). During my entire first year we had homework assignments due on the weekends. I also had one semester where my classes were Monday through Friday. When you add invited talks to that, and all of the reading and legwork that one has to do, it becomes almost impossible to do much else. I felt guilt even doing laundry or cleaning the dishes. I was thankful to have a boyfriend who stepped up with those tasks when I was completely engulfed in this crazy world.

    I'm now halfway through my third year, and I've lightened up substantially out of the need to just be able to "live again". I'm still 20 pounds heavier than I was before I started this journey, but at least I'm not on a downward slope to a mental breakdown anymore. What keeps me going is knowing that I will have two Master's degrees at the end of this year and they can't take that away from me, whether or not I decide to keep on keeping on.

    Ultimately, I think what makes this process truly terrible, at least from my standpoint, are the surly, holier than thou attitudes that emanate from the faculty. It might ACTUALLY be tolerable if even 60% treated the students with an ounce of respect. I get spoken to like a young child on a daily basis, no matter what I say or how I say it. People probably wouldn't even believe the stories that I had to tell them in relation to this and so many other things...unless they went to grad school themselves. A few folks above mentioned connections to grad school/sucky first jobs/your 20s being sucky in general-- trust me when I say that the actions of a lot of these profs would never fly in the "real world." The stuff that I've seen go down, the stuff that has been said, they wouldn't last a day at some of the places I've worked. Completely the opposite of "professional" in many cases. I'd say it's just my school, but then again, look at the stories on this website...