Academia

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‘I’m Sorry, I’m Busy’: A Chaotic Schedule and Added Stress of Those Who Don’t Understand

Published December 13, 2014 by harleyquinnly

I am not writing this blog to sound pretentious or as a ‘look at me! I’m so important because I’m so busy!’ I am writing it because I have been under an immense amount of stress from grad school requirements but additional stress has been added by ‘friends’ that do not understand the work it takes and why I am unavailable for long periods of time. I constantly tell them ‘thank you, but I have to work on my paper’ and send them pictures of the piles of papers/books taking over my house, and yet every time I have a due date, I am bombarded with guilt trip text messages (“you could make time if you wanted to”) or people that flat out refuse to speak to me. I am tired, and tired of it. So here is a look at my typical week’s schedule. This is why I am unavailable and why someday I’ll be called doctor.

(Side note: I am eternally grateful for the wonderful friends I have that understand my schedule, never complain at me, and appreciate when I am able to see them. Thank you.)

This is literally my home office. And I'm normally a super clean person.

This is literally my home office. And I’m normally a super clean person.

I will gladly acknowledge that it is not the easiest to be my friend. I have to check out for weeks at a time when due dates come up. I am not always available for a hangout. Sometimes I have to go months without seeing people. I could remember to check up on people more often. But I do not deserve the added stress just because I am an extremely busy person.

Just one pile of books.

Just one pile of books.

The Schedule

Weekdays: 

8 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Work

Yes, I am a full time student and I have a full time job. I don’t choose to have this life, it was what I was dealt. I am financially unable to only attend school without working and I happen to like food and shelter. I am also unwilling to take out tens of thousands of dollars of student loans I will never be able pay off. There are next to no jobs for history Ph.D.s and those that do exist often do not pay enough to survive on, much less added loan payments. Excuse me for being financially responsible. (I am not throwing shade at those who have students. You do what you have to do. I’m meaning the unnecessary ones).

6 to 7:30 p.m.: Workout then Dinner

The commute home takes me an hour due to traffic, idiocy, and a lack of infrastructure for growing populations. I workout for half an hour (just because I’m busy doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be healthy). I make dinner quickly and watch whatever is on tv at the time, usually a rerun of “The Big Bang Theory.”

I love Sheldon. And feel like a villain the more I'm in school.

I love Sheldon. And feel like a villain the more I’m in school.

7:30 to ~11 p.m. Schoolwork

I spend every evening of every single workday working on schoolwork. This month I have large essays due that require a lot of incorporated reading. I literally do not leave my ‘command center’ I’ve set up on my kitchen table every. single. evening. Therefore, I do not have time to do anything else.

My "command center" on my kitchen table. I live here.

My “command center” on my kitchen table. I live here.

Me in my favorite recliner.

Me in my favorite recliner.

My One Free Day

I usually allow myself one evening a week for free time. Think about if you were working from 8 a.m. until ~10 p.m. without a break. What would you feel like doing on your rare break? Sometimes I get free movie tickets and go see a movie with a friend/date. Other times I just want to veg out on my couch with my non-judgmental friend, Netflix. I apologize for not instantly running to you for your social needs. Also, with only one night out a week, I can only see so many people in that limited amount of time.

Weekends

Hey, it’s the weekend so I have all this free time, right? Nope. Because I work during the weekday, weekends are the only time I get to get work done for long spans of time. When I have papers due, these are the days that I write them.

9 to 10 a.m. Breakfast and Wake Up Time

I usually let myself sleep in until 9 a.m. This is catch-up sleep for me. I get up, make my eggs and tea, and relax for an hour on my couch. I am human and need a little relax time interspersed.

10 to 10:30 a.m. Shower

After breakfast, I shower. Unless I have to see something or do something outside my house, I don’t do hair or makeup and stay in yoga pants.

10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. or sometimes until 4 a.m.

I work on schoolwork the entire day, taking about an hour for lunch and dinner. I sometimes stay up until 4 a.m. because I have a due date and it’s okay if I’m completely sleep-deprived at home rather than at work. These are full days working on schoolwork. I understand people don’t get that I have so much of a workload I have to work this long on weekend. I do.

My dinners usually look like this.

My dinners usually look like this.

So, in conclusion, I have taken time out of my study schedule to detail my schedule. Hopefully it inspires further understanding but I’ve done all I can do. This is my life, please understand or at least respect it.

Why Am I Doing This? A Dangerous Question During Exam Time for Graduate Students

Published August 17, 2014 by harleyquinnly

9a9ec-existentialcrisis

I am a Ph.D. student in History. I am having an existential crisis. This can apply to people in any type of situation when it gets tough and makes you ask yourself, ‘Why am I doing this?’ Sometimes you don’t have an answer. 

To earn a Ph.D. in history at my university, you must take so many semesters/credit hours of coursework, earning a grade no lower than a B. That is not enough to prove your worth, however. You must take three, six hour long exams over three days, known as comprehensive exams (comps). The three exams are your general field (US history), secondary field (American West), and a minor field (Public History). 

Why are these so daunting? For me personally, I am not good at tests. Sure, I know the information inside and out but when I am handed an exam I can’t even remember what name to put at the top of the page. I will do reviews, projects, or write you a frickin’ book but don’t give me a test. In addition, I am aware that the exam can ask anything that happened in the United States from 1492 until the 1980s. That’s roughly five hundred years of stuff. And you must know what every historian has written about each era as well. 

scream

Yes, I’m aware it’s a form of academic hazing. It’s weeding out the lesser, supposed to be humbling, etc. As if taking (and acing) history courses for about ten years isn’t good enough. And humbling? What about surviving the professors that routinely made your colleagues cry and whose classes required multiple all-nighters (not from procrastination either). 

What I’m getting at, besides being whiney, is today after I found out I must also submit a dissertation proposal during the exact same time as I’m supposed to be studying (and getting signatures from my committee is like herding cats). I made the mistake of asking myself, “Why am I doing this to myself? Why am I even getting my Ph.D.?”

exist crisis

Most people go to graduate school to get degrees required for higher jobs. I went for my Ph.D. because I had just gone through a divorce, wanted to avoid a personal life, and only knew of adulthood through the lens of a college student. I genuinely love the classroom and reading, any academic pursuit really. If I had unlimited scholarships I would be happy doing nothing but being a perpetual student. 

But then there’s real life. The place where I had to quit my dream job I went to graduate school for in the first place because it didn’t pay enough for me to survive on. The place where I work a horrid 40+ hours a week job with a verbally abusive boss before going home to stress over these exams. I’m proud to say that through hard work, scholarships, help, and luck I have no student loans, but I’ve paid dearly for that in other ways. Because I work, I am unable to dedicate myself to publishing (which is the only means to employment, if you can even find it). So why am I doing this?

i-dont-know-who-i-am-any-more

In addition, where I live, having higher education makes you more unemployable than a felon. I often lie and leave off my higher education on resumes or I don’t receive interviews or are flat out told I am over-educated, over-qualified, etc. Smart people need to eat too. (I’m serious about the felon part-I know of a registered sex offender that has a job that pays three times as much as mine)

tumblr_m2uy2sPqIr1qff4v2o1_500

I wish I could end this post with an enlightened, ‘This is what I reminded myself of why I’m doing what I’m doing’ but I’m not there yet. I don’t have an answer. Maybe I’m doing this because I’ve already worked for three years to get this far into the Ph.D. Maybe because school was the only thing I felt I was ever good at and base my sense of worth upon it. 

Perhaps this is why you seldom see sober Ph.D. students when they’re studying for comps.

exist 3

Twenty-One Things Academics Hate

Published February 11, 2013 by harleyquinnly

‘Professor, why are we doing this?’

While every job has their annoyances, this post includes those specifically encountered by graduate students and those working in academia. Unless you actually work in this field, do not automatically assume we all have cushy, easy jobs and just like to complain about the lack of coffee packages for our Kurigs. Like others, we also face extreme high unemployment and debt, low salaries, and underappreciation. There have been several articles released lately on how Ph.D.’s are facing reliance on foodstamps due to unemployment or low salaries despite earning four college degrees. So why do we endure this craziness and suffering? Because we love it…and we are slightly masochistic.

Madison Moore, “21 Things Academics Hate,” Thought Catalog, January 13, 2013 (accessed February 11, 2013).

1) Being unemployed. Not that other people don’t hate being unemployed, too. But unless you’re a lucky person who has already secured that coveted mirage of a tenure-track job — and even then you’ve only got six years to get it together — being in academia means that, at some point, you could be an unemployed person with a lot of degrees!

2) REVISIONS. (Everything that is done must be redone at least twenty times before it comes close to being good enough)

3) Ratchet departmental politics. There are always office politics in any career. But in academia, everybody’s heard the story about how so-in-so didn’t get tenure because the department chair kind of hates her or thinks her research is silly. Or has been on a search committee where somebody thinks a candidate who works on anything after 1832 is totally irrelevant. Or how about why we can’t have the department holiday party at Stephanie’s house because Stephanie and Blake do NOT get along.

4) Being in debt — credit card debt — from all those broke ass years in graduate school.

5) “The Administration,” because it seems like they get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to make things as complicated as possible, for everyone, at all times.

6) The “heterosexual matrix” and/or patriarchy.

7) When people ask how the dissertation/book manuscript/article is coming along and you honestly don’t know because you haven’t touched it.

8) Formatting academic articles to the exact specifications the journal requires. And you thought academia was just about ideas — HA!

9) When Word freezes when you’re in the middle of a streak of brilliance and you forgot to save your stuff.

10) Feeling anxious about every interaction with a senior scholar, because senior scholars are the GATEKEEPERS. Do they like me? OMG do they think I’m an idiot?

11) When someone asks a long-winded question during the Q+A that has absolutely nothing to do with what your talk was on, so now you have to maintain your composure, smile and respond WITHOUT seeming like an A-hole.

12) When student papers begin with sweeping claim like “since the beginning of man.”

13) Going on the job market.

14) Tenure reviews.

15) Being underpaid for the amount of work you do. You’re teaching four classes a semester, plus you’re on 12 committees and you have a book manuscript to work on. And if you don’t find the time to finish that, you’re gonna get fired!

16) Overly negative reviews from blind, peer review publications. Because the reviewers don’t know who you are, that means they get to be even meaner.

17) When students email you about the grade they got at the end of the semester, instead of putting the work in DURING it.

18) Anxiety and the diverse medical issues associated with it.

19) When someone has ripped several key pages out of a library book.

20) If someone says that academia isn’t a “real” job.

21) BEING TOLD THEY HAVE THE #1 LEAST STRESSFUL JOB IN THE COUNTRY.

I am working on my fourth degree, have a professional job, and still eat ramen at least once a day

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