For the last year and a half I have known, without a doubt, that I don’t like doing science. I love astronomy, but I don’t love doing astronomy. This means that every time I sit down to work on my thesis, I wonder to myself why I’m doing it? Why am I wasting my time? Why don’t I just quit?
I know the reasons I’ve kept going: I’ve wanted a PhD for as long as I can remember, I know that I can do it, and I’m already this far along, so I might as well finish. They might not be good reasons, but there they are. Frankly, they haven’t been enough. And along with the messages of “Why am I doing this?” that I’ve been feeding myself, I’ve found it very difficult to muster any enthusiasm for my work. This means that I’ve been getting very little done, and subsequently is going to prolong my grad work.
In addition, I’ve been finding that I don’t take myself seriously at all. I feel like I’m “just a grad student”, and at 33 that makes me a nothing. At least that’s how I’ve been feeling. It’s not good, it’s not true, but it’s going through my head continuously.
Enter my epiphany.
Yesterday I had a telecon to discuss the Beyond Einstein related teaching materials that our E/PO wants to develop. We were talking with another person who is helping us with the teacher focus group to determine how to focus these materials to make them useful to high school science teachers. We had a very productive discussion of how to focus our presentations to the focus group.
I came away from that meeting feeling bolstered, and I was a bit surprised by how good I felt coming out of that meeting. It took me a little while to figure out why, but it later hit me that the people in the meeting were taking me seriously. They liked my ideas, and fed off my ideas. Realizing this triggered a kind of epiphany. I’ve been treating myself and my career in grad school (especially post-master’s) as something useless to me, as something I’m doing just because I can, as something that’s not going to lead me anywhere.
If I continue to treat my grad work as useless, I’m never going to finish it. I really needed to figure out why I’m doing it, and get the work and motivation back on track. The direction I’d like my career to take is toward Education and Public Outreach. Do I need the PhD to pursue this? No However, “PhD” after my name would certainly help.
So, I am now looking at my thesis work as a means to the E/PO end. That’s my overarching goal. My next step is going to be writing out smaller goals that will help me reach the PhD — like starting to write up some of the work I’ve done, reading up more on the sources I’m studying and really trying to put my work into the context of previous studies and the unification theory of AGN. These are things I should have been doing all along, and have made half-assed attempts to do, but with renewed motivation I’m going to get through this.