Dear Future Self:
Many years down the road, you will no doubt let nostalgia cloud your memory of what academia was like, and long for the days when you could sit around writing all day in pajama pants. When that happens, let me remind you of the following.
Working in the house all day has its drawbacks. Sometimes that means never actually getting outside and seeing sun, and realizing after dark that you’re kinda depressed and that a few minutes of being outside and moving around, even if that was just getting to and from work or whatever, would have prevented that. Also, it’s really isolating, as evidenced by getting way too excited about chats with the handyman or co-op cashier. Having regular contact with people is not a bad thing.
More importantly, let me remind you how this work makes us feel. Right now, I have three days to edit two chapters of my diss and get it out to my committee. I have worked on this dissertation for four years, and I should be feeling proud. Most people congratulate me and say what a huge accomplishment it is. But all I can see are the flaws. I feel embarrassed when people congratulate me because it makes me list all of things I wish I had time to fix – I do not feel like I deserve to be congratulated. Let me also remind you that we both know that not all work makes us feel this way. Some work is rewarding, and feels done, and feels good when it’s done. We both know that academia is unlikely to ever make us feel that way. We would not reach some magical moment in which we have faith in our abilities. We would just continue to feel like a fraud, only the stakes would be higher.
So that’s what I think you need to know, Future Self. Now if you would do me a favor and write back, and let me know if everything works out okay, I would appreciate it. Because I know I’m making the right decision in the sense that I can’t keep doing what I’m doing. But I’m feeling terrified these days that I won’t be able to make something new happen after all of this is over. My confidence is waning, Future Self. A little bit of encouragement or hope would go a long way.