Last week I had a lovely and productive chat with Jen over at From PhD to Life. We talked about where I’m at (ABD, not sure if I’ll finish), what I want (a full-time, non-academic job), and how I’m spending my time (bartending on a boat, volunteering at a non-profit, scouring online job postings, etc.). I mentioned at one point that I didn’t know if what I was doing was the best use of my time, so Jen helped me create a list of “non-negotiables” — things I need to do daily or weekly to make my life work. Searching for jobs online didn’t make the list. In fact, Jen encouraged me to NOT look for work for the next two weeks. It’s been five days, and I’m slowly going insane.
Of course that’s an exaggeration, but it has been really, really hard to stick to that. I’m so excited about The Next Big Thing, so curious and anxious to get started, that it’s really difficult to live in the present where I’m more or less treading water. And I’m not going to lie or sugar coat this: I’m scared. I’ve started having nightmares about my student loans (these dreams have an oddly political slant. Too much Left-Wing Twitter consumption?) and I live with a kind of constant money stress that I haven’t had to deal with for a long time (because Past Me said: “I know I’ll have to worry about student loans later, but right now I don’t want to work two jobs.” Thanks, Past Me.). I believe I’ll find work and I believe it will be rewarding. I’m just no good at waiting.
One of the things Jen and I talked about is the grad student’s fear of falling behind. We have these huge reading lists, these complicated research and writing projects, plus grading, lesson plans, etc., and very little structure to our time. It’s tough to set boundaries: this is work time, this is not. (Read this brilliant piece about setting boundaries in academia–I think it applies regardless of field or industry.) Every day I need to feel like I’m accomplishing something or I beat myself up about being lazy. Jen reminded me that taking care of myself and my relationships is an accomplishment. I’m thankful for that reminder…but I’m struggling today to stay away from more tangible “accomplishments.”