As I leaned against the wall of my apartment, tears running down my face, one thought kept circling around and around in my head: “This shouldn’t be happening.”
Indeed, from all outside appearances, my life was pretty good. I had completed my PhD with no major difficulties, I had a supportive family and a wonderful circle of friends, I had no major health problems, I had a job that I loved and knew I was a strong candidate for a tenure-track position in the near future, and had no significant financial difficulties. I was incredibly privileged and still recognize how lucky I was. So why was I crying so hard, and why couldn’t I leave my apartment?
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This blog has been adapted from an essay appearing in the March 2020 issue, with permission from the author, from the student magazine CNS Newsletter. Check it out here.
When I started my PhD, I treated my project as my ‘baby’ and enthusiastically embarked onto working long days and equally long nights. I distinctly remember cycling home from the lab at 3am on Unter den Linden, intoxicated by the sweet perfume of the linden trees and a rush I could not explain at that time. I had a feeling that I was finally doing the right thing in order to succeed—the thing which was presented to me as a necessity and hence expected of me. Now, results were bound to follow. This meant that nobody, not even my self-distrusting mind, could say I wasn’t putting enough effort in, should the results not roll in. I continued doing this for about half a year, across pilot experiments and until I fully delineated my research plan for my PhD project, and, after few months off for a break, where I felt inexplicably lacking in energy, I continued to do this for three more years.
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