Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Tunnel, light, etc.

Through the arduous years of my Phd, I would tell myself. 'Kenny, there is light, at the very end of the tunnel, but light there is, nevertheless.' With hindsight, I know that it wasn't as difficult as I made it out to be in my own head. I have the 'necessary qualities' - always did. Aptitude, attitude, needn't say more. So, it was, really, no big deal. But who can think like that when all the shit is happening all around you and its so damn cold outside and you have to slog, slog, slog away? (Damn, I even enjoyed that slog, slog, but still felt miserable often).

The big thing about a Phd, I think, is that its just damn frustrating. All the time, its frustrating. When you have results, you have to write a paper. The light shines bright, but the paper writing thing can be a nightmare as its highly unlikely you and advisor will agree on anything. If you don't have results its super scary because then the light fades. Its there, of course, but feels less bright, the light. Then there is the weird shit that happens. Computers crash. Random visitors show up and hog your day. You get sick. Everyone in the group developed arm pain one time (we thought it was a contagious virus that was hidden deep in the methane oxidation code).

There is always that frustration. Part of it is because the end-point is not clearly defined. Everyone asks you 'so when are you going to finish?' Oh! I am so glad that I am over that. I used to hate anyone who asked me the question, and after a point started saying 'Next year' - I was 'going to finish next year' for like three years!! Already keeping sight of that light, at the end of the tunnel, which is really, always always there, is such hard work. I derive all my motivation from inside. Well, most of it, at least. So external validations have to be processed internally to feed the beast. Which takes time. And there is loss in the process. All in all a soup of a mess of 4.5 years of my life. But so long ago now. It has been 11 years almost to the day, since I put the entire Phd thesis behind me...

Now, as I worry about life's incessant problems, I have to put my mind back and be Kenny in her 20s. The one that persevered. The one that conquered. The one who was the black sheep of the group. The one who left all that behind, in a fit of misplaced egoism, and cut out on her own, as a young Assistant Professor, at 28. Oh! How good that felt! I had so many ideas in those days...Bursting with enthusiasm and energy... But then, but then, I couldn't run anything more than 10km those days - never had! I couldn't open out the mac; spend an hour and bang out a document that is needed for later today - took me ages! I couldn't figure out how much material is required for 1 hour of teaching - clearly hadn't figured out that 5 notebook pages generally covers it. Hadn't blogged - hadn't even heard of blogs, and blogging (was writing stuff in a notebook, black bound. Ugh). It was a different world back then, wasn't it. Now my world is different (I have my monster, for one, painful as she is, she is bright strong tunnel light). And I am different too. More skilled all around, more efficient all around. Should focus on being less messed up all around, thats all!

Yes, I am done now. If you are working on your Phd now and think its difficult, oh yes, its difficult. But not more than later life. And all you have got to to do on a daily basis is focus on the light. Let me go think of that now...and also work on my big fat h-index while at it...


6 comments:

Saad Bhamla said...

Err. There is so much light.. sunlight.
Any advice for people who are in blissful ignorance and are "enjoying" their Ph.D.'s :) ?

kbpm said...

Saad Bhamla - I quote a friend of mine. "The Phd is a small footnote to my wonderful five years in this town" he said the day we had lunch after he had finished - There are people like that. They don't need advice!!! :-)

Saad Bhamla said...

Ooh. I like it. Can i please quote it on my blog?
Who should i give credit to? kbpms friend?

kbpm said...

Sure, go for it! You can attribute it to the one and only 'AHM' - not that he will ever be seen in these parts, or anything!

Prashanti :) said...

Currently in the 4th year of my Ph.D. I tell everyone I will finish "next " year and I am delighted to see someone mention the h-index :)

kbpm said...

Prashanti- Welcome! h-index is all anyone cares about any more here. I swear. Good luck with your thesis!