Even as I am beginning to type this post, I know I should stop. I am simply too emotional to say anything rationally or logically at this moment. But, well, fuck that. I am emotional and this post will be emotional and it is my endless rollercoaster of emotions that has brought me to today’s topic: quitting.
I am what my therapist has called a “perfectionist.” I think lots of people who end up in academics have probably been called that or referred to themselves as one at some point in time. It’s why we are here. It’s why we strive for many, many years to produce work that someone, somewhere will find interesting, worth reading, worth publishing, worth hiring us over. It’s why we continue to push on, push through the endless amount of shit that is piled on, why we put up with the arbitrary nature of the evaluation process and the bestowing of rewards, why we re-write single sentences fourteen times before deciding to simply delete it, why we re-write the same proposal/abstract each and every time we submit it, and why we are ready and willing to believe every single time we are told that we are not good enough, we haven’t done enough, and we are, in fact, not worthy of reading, rewards, publishing, or hiring. And the system of graduate school, of creating PhDs, it feeds off this knowledge of how the perfectionist works and it heightens your insecurities and magnifies your weaknesses. It fucking sucks.
So, no matter how many times I learn this about academia, I keep getting punched in the gut when something happens that reminds me of all of this. And I keep holding on. I keep thinking that if I just do the next step, I just keep at it, it will pay off. I will get what I want. I will get recognition. I will get read, rewarded, published, and hired.
And yet, now, in the process of writing my dissertation, I barely get read (but I do, at least by people in my department), I get no rewards anymore, I am terrified of even trying to get published, and I am certain I will never get hired.
I feel like my department no longer believes in me. Individuals in it do, but I’m not sure that is enough anymore.
I feel like I am constantly drowning and there are brief moments where my head breaks the water and I catch a breath. But almost instantly I am back under, flailing, trying to do whatever it takes to make it to the surface again. The panic of my day-to-day is crippling at times, it makes it so I can’t do anything except focus on it. This, of course, causes more panic. More flailing. Inevitably crying and more crying.
And sometimes, blogging.
So, here I am. Today, again, I am deep underwater, swallowing gulps of water, the pressure for air making my chest feel like it is going to explode.
But quitting? Ending this terrible psychological, emotional, and sometimes physical (I am SO psycho-somatic) pain? I can’t. And I hate myself for that. I seem to constantly put myself in situations and relationships where I give so much more than I am given, where I am always feeling slighted and shorted by the other side. Here, again, I am. Me and my dissertation. Me and my department. Me and academia. Me giving and giving, nothing being returned.
My ultimate fear? I do finish and then nothing. A blink of climax, a moment of being fulfilled, and then nothing else. Because if it is like that, then for what is all of this? Maybe being able to quit, to acknowledge my unhappiness to the world, maybe that is the bigger and better decision. I don’t know.
Today, right now, I want to quit. I have seriously considered quitting at least once a month since May. Sometimes I seriously consider it for days on end. But I always bounce back. I’m sure I will this time, too. I just need some catharsis today. I need a release from these emotions, this doubt.
Update on 11/3: Doing much better today. The episode that caused this release of emotions turned out to not be what I thought it was. I was internalizing an issue that was completely external to me. That realization has helped me to set these feelings aside for now and to plow on. Also, I had an amazing talk with a prof of mine who has been beaten to a pulp by this system and yet refuses to take anything personally or relinquish her optimism. That helped, too.