A note of encouragement

Dear self,

I see you’ve stalled in your search for both inspiration and the ever-elusive catharsis that continually evades capture by those on the circuitous path to an ‘original intellectual contribution’ (ie. the grimy, pajama-wearing, limbo-inhabiting, exceedingly condescending grad students).  All that time away from functioning members of society has made the methodical stacking of one abstruse thought on top of the last a task that is performed in a state of near-catatonia.  (Please note that catatonia is defined as “muscular rigidity and mental stupor, sometimes alternating with great excitement and confusion,” an entertainingly apt description.)

I have some suggestions.  The first is a gentle reminder that apparently no one ever feels that this excruciating labour of… perseverance… will ever be something original or interesting to anyone.  Not even one’s own mother can, in this case, be called upon to justify the existence of that protracted diatribe that will eventually be called a dissertation.  But, I’m told, there will nevertheless be a certain sense of satisfaction that accompanies the completion of said diatribe.  I’ve heard that your imagination has trotted off to a place where the entire noble institution of academe gathers its dusty and highly articulate forces to tell you to go back where you came from – there must have been an oversight in the admissions department.    The odds of this are… low.

My second suggestion is this: wherever perspective appears to be hiding on this dim and drippy day, go find it.  The luxury of being here alone is unthinkable, as are the stability and certainty required to make a multi-year investment in one’s noggin an exercise that is not publicly derided.

I am saving the rest of my ever-growing list of suggestions for the next time that you feel like no other grad student has ever been this concerned with the increasing likelihood of creating a rather awkwardly shaped paperweight instead of a masterful work of human genius.  Neither will happen, and few people will notice either way.  They’ll be too busy procreating, or fighting wars, or finding food, or taking out the trash.

With equal parts sympathy and scorn,


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A wildly interdisciplinary path has led Sarah to pursue her PhD through UBC's Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability. She gets riled about climate change, development, and equity issues, and any reference to P_ris Hi_ton. In her spare time, she cares for her rabbit (Stew) and composes self-congratulatory bios. (Sarah's intro post can be found here)