Close your eyes and leap (or stand still):The Trouble with being a Twenty Something, Single, PhD student

Yes–my title needed to be that long. The trouble is that I want to be done. The other trouble is that, I am enjoying what I’m doing.  Merely hours after I wrote the previous post, I met with my advisor who looked at my neatly organized, color coded, 4-year plan and spiked it viciously into the sand.  So maybe that didn’t happen–but that is how it felt! The thing to note about my advisor is that she is very quiet, and yet she speaks with tremendous volume…so even though its very gentle and soft-spoken, her words are about as gentle as a jab from Ali.  Or maybe that’s just my experience of her when she’s telling me truths I do not want to hear.

So she gently suggets that I slow down my pace and consider doing 4.5 years maybe even 5 years so that I can continue only taking two classes per semester (the recommended course load) and teach and research and whatever else I do.  Whereas I want to take three, and get the heck outta dodge.  This was our first disagreement. I finally just turned my program plan over and said, “Let’s move on.”

Then she asked what I wanted to do when I graduated. This made me frown…mainly because I am not so sure anymore. I keep flirting with teaching, but the idea of the publish or parish lifestyle of a tenured-track Full-time Faculty member just makes my stomach turn.  I just want to teach…and research…and work with students (yes I realize that all of this describes what a FT faculty member does) but saying it out loud? I just do not know that I’m ready for that. Naturally, my advisor gave me until November 1st to make my mind up.  Not for my whole life, just my course of study, but isn’t that the same thing?

Here’s where she got me, though. She asked in her big booming Wizard of Oz voice:


See, here is the problem with being a 20something single PhD student…technically I have no reason to rush. I do not have kids that need raising, a husband that needs attention, hell I don’t even have a plant that needs watering. I just want to be done.  I cannot even convince myself that this is a good enough reason to kill myself for the next two years, but it is not going to stop a valiant effort.  Something I just realized in texting Mass Elle (who, oddly enough has been very present for this whole sham-foolery today)…

Mass Elle: …but I think you’ll be great in it and it’ll be nice in the long run to not cram it all in.
JessJ: I know. I know. I just need to sit on it and grieve my freedom.

It struck me when I said those words that I am feeling stifled. I do this often–I feel stuck and I want out and then I get somewhere and feel stuck again.  The truth is, I am as free anywhere that I choose to be, but I’m always looking for the  next big adventure.  Oddly enough, the book I mentioned earlier honed in on this saying that North Node Geminis often crave freedom.  This also explains why I fancy myself an Air Bender (above all other benders).  I cannot tell you how frustrated it makes me when my advisor is right.

Air is the element of freedom.
— Iroh to Zuko in “Bitter Work“.


6 thoughts on “Close your eyes and leap (or stand still):The Trouble with being a Twenty Something, Single, PhD student

  1. Two words: Patience. Presence.

    Sounds like you need to nail those or you’ll never be quite fulfilled. Even when you do graduate, you’ll ultimately have the same feelings unless you deal with them sooner rather than later. But you already know that ;-). xx

  2. I wrote a blog post where I sort of expressed the same thing. I am always looking for the next thing to focus on, the next challenge. I sort of related it to my Gemini need for change and intellectual stimulation, but really do I just not have the ability to be STILL? But aren’t we bought up doing everything to prepare for the next thing? High School is to prepare you for college. Then you get to college and everyone is like “whats next?” More schooling or preparing to get to the work force. This idea is definitely sitting with me as you know.. trying to figure out my end point.

  3. ” The truth is, I am as free anywhere that I choose to be..”

    I laughed to myself when reading about your reluctance to stay in one place for too long. One person’s feeling stuck is another person’s comfortable stability, I suppose.
    But I’m glad that you’re doing so well in your PhD program and I know you’re right where you are supposed to be 🙂

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