I’ve had a whirlwind week. 56 mile ride on my bike last Saturday, followed by a week in North Carolina, where I was fully immersed in my favorite topic: Behavioral Pharmacology. I did’t take very many pictures while I was away, in fact, I really don’t have anything to show for my trip at all–in the material sense. Everything I’ve gained in the past week has been entirely personal and “intangible”.
At first, I was upset that I had not taken more pictures, shared more instagrams or documented my trip more. But now I realize that the important things came home with me. I’m more motivated, inspired and excited than I have been for some time. I’m excited to go to work, I’m excited to read and I’m excited to be back in my element. What seemed like work now seems exciting again.
I have more confidence than I did when I left. I met some amazing people in my trip, people that I most certainly will come into contact again in my future. And that is exciting. More than ever, this trip brought me back to where I needed to be. No, nothing is different about my home, my school, my lab…but a LOT is different about me, and that makes all the difference.
Nowadays, I spend the majority of my days in one of three places: downstairs in the lab, upstairs at my desk or behind a microscope. When people ask me how I feel being done with classes, I have a pretty standard response: “It’s great, and now I’m finally doing what I came here to do!” Pretty generic, but also, pretty true. Sure, part of me misses the structure and predictability of the classroom, but I do NOT miss studying and taking tests.
Getting a PhD is an odd life. I go from confident to completely stressed in only a day sometimes. It is a roller coaster of emotions that I never expected it would be. For instance, today, I’m having a good day. I felt productive, read informative literature and revised and sent a document full of ideas to my mentor. I’m mentally spent. But in a good way.
I felt like I’ve grown as a doctoral student more in the past year than I have in all 3 years in grad school combined. It was a struggle at first, I didn’t know what to expect, didn’t know how to ask for help or guidance, and confidence in my abilities was at an all time low for a very long time.
I’m finally gaining some perspective and I feel like I’m scratching the surface of the type of scientist/researcher/person I want to be and it’s both exciting and intimidating. I’m lucky to have a wonderful mentor who can usually bring me back down to earth when I’m on a stress spiral.
My main task at this point is to work with my mentor in the development of my dissertation project. A dissertation project should be a large body of work consisting of a few different studies that have a common theme. So, I’ve been reading LOTS of literature on a particular topic and finding ways in which to expand and elaborate on it. This is DAUNTING. But I’m making slow, steady progress and that’s what counts in grad school…patience, hard work, consistency and a little bit of faith that things are gonna work out.