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Katie Wedemeyer-Strombel @krwedemeyer
, 18 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
We've talked about this before, and others have written about it - but one of the side effects of my PhD I didn't expect was the identity crisis. I'm 4 months away from my PhD defense & I'm not sure who I am or what I want out of life.
I talk big talk of being a whole person in graduate school, mostly because I failed at doing so. I gave up my life to my PhD program, lost myself and my interests along the way. I've spent a lot of time trying to find my passions & rebuild my non-academic life
Living in a city that doesn't really welcome outsiders, and with very little local support network - it is hard to feel like any more than my school responsibilities. And I haven't done the work to hold my own interests, hobbies, and self care needs as a priority.
I've written about how toxic academia has contributed to my mental health issues, how graduate school has strained my personal relationships - but honestly the relationship it has strained the most is the one with myself.
I took 2.5 years off between ug and gradschool to work full time & do research internships, during that time I had girls' nights with friends, date night's with now husband, and played soccer. I was well rounded. I felt ready for graduate school.
Then, I was told that I "was too smart to not get a PhD", then I got to graduate school and was told, "You don't have it, you'll never make it as a PhD". Then I found an environment in graduate school that did accept me as me. But by that point, I wasn't sure who "me" was.
I didn't understand, at the time, how very important it was to protect the non-academic parts of my life, how sacred and important they are, and how they are what drove my passions - in school and out.
I allowed myself to give up my non-academic passions, to dive in to my work, and lost sight of why I was in graduate school in the first place, of my passion & excitement for my work.
I have enjoyed my field work, the amazing people I've met through my PhD, and am so fortunate for the many amazing experiences I have had. I just wish I would have lived them in the context of my "real life" and not this weird extended no-mans land that grad school can feel like
If felt almost like this study abroad experience, this weird in between of not quite a real adult, but not a student anymore. And I put so much of myself and my life on hold, I didn't fully celebrate non-academic things because I couldn't turn my inner academic off
It's like, all these years, I've been waiting for the PhD to "pass", for that defense date to come so that I could start *really* living my life in the "real world" (yes, I do know how naive this sounds)
I have worked really hard throughout my PhD, I have earned many grants and accolades and am working on publications. Sometimes the work has fulfilled me, others it has not - like most jobs, as far as I can tell.
But I let it become too much of me, I let it dictate how I would live and celebrate my life, my dreams. I let it be my end-all, be-all. And now that I'm near the end, I'm wondering, well now what? Who am I, who will I be when I'm not longer: "Katie, PhD Candidate"?
I didn't enter into my PhD wanting to be an academic, I always had sights on alt-academic careers. I'm not sure what that looks like now, but I think my big focus for post-defense is going to be more me-focused.
Sure, my career may loose some momentum (as people often remind me), if I don't go straight into a career...but I am so looking forward to finding me again, to making friends, to living somewhere I choose, to spending time with my husband, to being a whole person again.
Others have surely done a much better job than I on balancing themselves and academia, and I am so proud of them for doing so. I realized, the hard way, that being ourselves, and keeping our non-academic parts of our selves are so very important.
All of this is to say: protect your passions, protect your hobbies, your "you time". It is sacred and work can wait. Don't let grad school become all you are, yes it will likely change you (that's kind of the point, to learn things) - but don't let it take away your foundations.
After all, your foundations, your you-ness is what got you to graduate school in the first place. Protect that. Surround yourself with people (peers and mentors) who honor that.
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