It's been about a month since my last post in this series. I'm feeling better, though the waves of doubt and defeat still resonate with me at times. I'm glad to be at the end of the semester with some down time. Some of the other issues have been alleviated (though still waiting on the job front) and so I can feel a bit better as I go into the weekend of paper-writing and finalizing of projects for the end of the semester.
I definitely withdrew this semester more than last in terms of connecting with the content and with my cohort. The combined stress of things made it much harder for me to concentrate in class and to apply what I was learning more substantially. I still feel like I learned a lot. The course balance was also off this semester in that once course felt particularly taxing in its work and the amount of learning we were doing while the other felt not as substantive. I learned some things but I feel like I didn't foster many new skills or hone existing ones. I know some of that is on me for sure, but I just don't think there was much emphasize on the big picture.
Like students everywhere, I went like water this semester, taking the path of least resistance. I wonder about this. Am I being smart by tackling things that I know things about or align with my own interests or am I reducing my learning experience? By finding synergy and pulling together the different pieces of my life together do I lose something in the course of learning of challenging myself and branching out? It's a fair but complicated question and one I'm still grappling with.
I often feel like there is no real time to push further because of so many other things going on. Getting the PhD is the pushing further. Trying to complicated it even more seems like I would only be jeopardizing the other items that I am juggling. Of course, the answer that I'm likely to hear from the program seems to be then I might need to reprioritize my goals. Yet what is there to reprioritize? The job needs to stay because I need to be employed. The self-care of watching a show a day and some kind of physical exercise are essentials. My work is highly demanding of the mind; I need time each day to turn off or just let my brain wander as it will. The general maintenance of the day (preparing, cleaning, etc) are of course what makes the days functional.
Of course, the discussion above also resonated with the students that I work with and makes me wonder for how many of them, the degree is pushing further and how I should respond to or work with that. Do I encourage them to push further or recognize that the degree is pushing further? How do I as student and instructor find (or even determine if there is) a happy medium? Do I structure the work so that it is requires pushing further (something I have done in different capacities; preventing synergy, rather than enabling it)?
The above discussion is part of why I am enjoying this blog series as it is encouraging me to take the step back and process what I am learning in the big and small. I am sure others have found ways of doing this but writing (and blogging in particular) has been a solid means of finding my way to making sense of what I am learning.
All right, enough procrastinating, I've got some papers to write!
Want to catch up on my previous reflections about being in a PhD program? Check them out:
- Day 1
- Week 1
- First 2 Courses Completed
- First 2 Courses Finished
- Semester 2, Here We Go
- The Existential Crisis of the Week
- The Balancing Act
- Negotiating Privilege in Higher Education
- Zeroing in on Research
- Completing the Second Semester
- Dissertation Journal #1
- Dissertation Journal #2
- So Starts The Third Semester
- My Educational Philosophy...for now
- Dissertation Journal #3
- And Sometimes, You Feel It
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