Thursday, January 8, 2009

Why I love Boice

I was feeling disconsolate the other day, so looked up depression in the index of Boice. He had practically a whole chapter in the first half of the book, the teaching half that I never look at. He says that the first year out of grad school in a real job is a time when faculty feel more depressed and listless than at perhaps any time in their lives. I would add, all the more so for postdocs because we don't even have much real place in the university, as in the recent PhD Comics. It made me feel so much better to read that I was not alone and that it was actually normal to feel abnormal!

Boice is right every time. I am starting new projects and still have a couple weighing on me from before, and I feel a tremendous amount of pressure to start churning everything out. In other words, this is the typical rushing impatience alternating with despair that leads me to watching the past 3 days' of both the Daily Show and Colbert Report instead of working. But when I think about even Monday or the end of the month, I'm not sure how I will have enough work done for those times.

There's a balance between solo work and collaborations. There are two or more projects closely enough related to my dissertation that it feels like I could churn them out one week each and get good journal placement, although I know that is the rushing impatience that Boice warns against talking. Review article on a subject related to my dissertation. Again, seems easy. And a couple old projects that I'm going to ignore.

And then collaborations. The only successful one is a grant pre-proposal: I saw a notice for funding, wrote a pre-proposal for the first time with no idea, and she said it was good, so I accomplished something here that wasn't my dissertation. And then a couple potential collaborations whom if I am working with I need to start some momentum, hard especially with the holidays.

I have to keep reminding myself to breathe and just allow work to proceed one hour at a time, and one step at a time. I wrote down two steps and did those, just like I'm supposed to. And now I want to write down that step 3 is "Do everything else." But I will breathe again and take another step. Impatience is hard.

And also hard is that I feel such a pressure (from whom? my advisor? "people around here"?) to juggle more and more balls, and in theory I see how all of them can be juggled by someone else. I just feel like I have trouble doing even one project. But I will start one project and feel like I have a little momentum on it before I move to something else.

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