To go or stay on the path? — R Voice

To go or stay on the path?

Dahlia T
Dahlia T Member Posts: 40 ✭✭✭
edited March 18 in Everything & Anything

Since starting this PhD journey, I have asked myself several times whether or not I made the right choice. In my hearts of hearts, I know I am doing this for a reason, a purpose that sometimes I myself cannot fully articulate but one that I feel deep down in my bones. That purpose that speaks to me, gently whispering 'don't give up.'

When someone asks me what I do and I respond, only to have them follow up with, 'but do you have a real job', my heart literally plummets and I find myself back in that zone of 'why am I doing this again?' These back and forth conversations with myself have intensified, especially in the past year. The uncertainty of the job market for next-gen scholars (and jobs in general), which was already precarious has magnified. A few years ago, when I finally decided to fulfill that fire burning passion for 'research' and 'academia', I moved many miles to the school where I was accepted and had to resign my full time post, as my job was not fully sold on the concept of 'remote work' (interesting twist these days, eh). Many could not understand why I would 'willingly' give up a full time job with benefits in exchange for being a student. This, especially as an 'older black immigrant woman'.

When my thesis study project, which was in-person (behavioural observation, intervention) had to be tanked or should I say 'reframed', I was for lack of a better word, deeply 'depressed'. A year of preparation and finally having the 'higher powers that be' buy into my project all literally went down the drain. After feeling like I have been deliberately placed on the back burner too many times since starting my journey, coupled with that ongoing sense of no progress, then a total flat line by the pandemic, I often feel like 'packing it all in'.

A year into the pandemic, sometimes I feel like I have moved three paces back. Some days, it seems everyone else is moving forward and I am the only one at a standstill. Some days, it feels as if I am the only one who is moving that slowly. Some days, motivation is an elusive butterfly. The truth is, perhaps it is not all doom, but some days I cannot see the forest for the trees.

I am purposefully driven to water the soil to grow the seed that is already planted. 

Comments

  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 110 ✭✭✭✭
    edited March 19

    Dear @Dahlia T :

    I wrote a detailed response - but not sure why - it got deleted when I tried to edit it. I will write to you again a bit later. Meanwhile - hang in there, we are all here for you - I completely empathize where you are coming from. Cheering you on.

    Hugs, loads of hugs.

  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 110 ✭✭✭✭
    edited March 19

    Dear @Dahlia T :

    Since my (really long) comment got deleted 🤔 - I have had time to reformulate my response.

    (1) Hugs again. Loads of hugs.

    (2) Thanks so much for sharing this with us. I really appreciate your candor and honesty. In a world where people (including yours truly) hide such thoughts/feelings of uncertainty and vulnerability and put on a show (for various valid and invalid reasons), your courage to see and share your difficult reality is amazing. Especially, in a world where we are often required to curate and celebrate successes with oversimplified stories, while hiding away a 1000 failures - you being honest about the situation, your experiences and emotions about it all is stunning. You are AWESOME. Thank you. Wish more of us had your courage, character and genuineness.

    (3) It is also amazing that you followed your passion of purpose - research, learning and sharing learning - to become a Ph.D student - choosing to pursue the difficult path of academia - opting out of a full time job that might have given you stability. It takes guts to do so - more than usual. Because as an 'older black immigrant woman' - getting to the point of having a full time job by itself is no mean feat.

    [As a side note - the way you have followed passion is the REAL DEAL of "following passion". Because a lot of what I have seen is juvenile immature "following of passion" - without forethought or clarity of motives/goals, sometimes even self-centered.]

    As an 'older black immigrant woman' - having climbed up the ladder - you are full of life experience and have crossed many obstacles

    (4) With this background - as a fellow - oldish brown immigrant woman traveling from country to country with very similar vulnerabilities/doubts about my choices - this is what I want to say....as gentle suggestions.

    Please remind yourself to be absolutely PROUD of what you have accomplished, of your courage, of all your choices. I am VERY proud of you. ANYONE who reads your post is going to BE VERY proud of you.

    Yes. Things didnt go well. Your project tanked. It feels as if you have nothing to show and you have not made enough progress. But it seems - most of what happened is out of your control. You know from your immense life experience that SHIT HAPPENS. Not everything is because of the choices we make as individuals - our action or inaction. So - I am also gently reminding yourself to absolutely DITCH any regret -could haves, would haves, should haves.

    (5) Now - what can we do about the situation. Of course, the reality cannot be denied. And if you are depressed - it is entirely a valid and reasonable response to the situation at hand because you are human.

    (a) First - please take care of yourself. Please nurture yourself - eat well, sleep well - see a doctor/take professional help (if that is a possibility). Please do things that you love doing. Enjoy doing. And importantly - please surround yourself with supportive people. Hold away (at least for the time being) the ones who question your choices or make you feel bad in ANY WAY. Have people who see how courageous you are - the people who SEE your awesomeness and celebrate you - people who bolster your confidence. You can count me (and this platform) in for this. :)🙂

    (b) Next - your statement "everyone else is moving forward" - Yep, I get it. But I would also like to gently point out that you might want to question the reality of this feeling. People present a favorable image of moving forward - especially in these days of presenting curated profiles. So - please turn off this information about others. I quit social media - one of the reasons was that I was reading in to the one-dimensional curated images people were presenting. It partly upset me (because my reality was hell). But also, I knew that I was getting upset by lies and half-truths, which upset me even more. Please only use social media to further your own self - getting access to opportunities, for instance. Not for seeing how others are doing in their lives.

    (c) About the Ph.D - just as a suggestion - can you take a temporary pause (not necessarily "packing it all in"). Or a detour? Can you take some time to retreat and regroup. A pause - taking a step back - helps, in my opinion. Can you please consider this? Is it possible to convert your Ph.D to a masters? Is it possible to take up a teaching or an adjunct position? To keep in touch with your passionate subject. During this pause/detour - can you explore other opportunities? Related to your passion or something completely new - keeping an open mind? Perhaps - taking a new course? Furthering yourself and your CV? Or even going back to a full time job. Plus it is also the question of survival. Your survival is vital - a pre-requisite to you thriving in the future!

    Meanwhile, please let that whisper 'don't give up' stay. You can reply to your whisper - "I am not giving up, I am merely retreating to regroup and strike back - to come back to claim you, my purpose!"

    I am saying all this as a fellow oldish brown immigrant woman who travels from country to country - who has been stuck for quite some time. We all get stuck and lost sometimes. For some - the state of being stuck/lost - lasts for a few weeks/months - others it lasts for years. This does not always have anything to do with our choices. But we all learn to navigate life. I am sure you know this very well from your vast experience. I am just serving gentle reminders.

    Please feel free to continue writing here on this platform - about your thoughts, your action plan, how you are coping, etc. Also, if you would like please private message me. We are all here to support you and cheer you on.

    Good luck.

    PS: You write extremely well. Great word choices and style. If you already havent, why not start a blog?! Just throwing out a suggestion. 😊

  • Dahlia T
    Dahlia T Member Posts: 40 ✭✭✭

    My dear Raj,

    I have already read your reply twice and I know for a fact that I will be reading it a few more times. I felt your sincerity, your compassion, your care ... and your huuuuggggsss, from many miles away 🤗.

    Interestingly, when I came online to post a discussion, this was not what I intended to write 😄 I had another topic in mind, something motivational and upbeat that I have been thinking about for a while. Then my fingers started moving and it was as if they took on a life of their own because when I was finished, the post was the end result. I think I had some pent up angst I needed to get out. After hesitating for while, I decided to post, hoping it would not make anyone too uncomfortable.

    You are so right, it is not always easy to show the world who we are all the time, all our happy moments and especially all our 'not so happy' ones. Especially, along this PhD path. If there is one thing I am learning from this life, it is that in order to truly live, we have to start letting go and be our true selves. Of course, we have to carefully choose when and where to do so. Not everything is meant to be told to everyone. We need 'a safe space', which is what this community offers 🍀. I write for myself, to purge my thoughts, to clear the brambles, and to hopefully see that beautiful forest and keep walking my path. I also write for that one other person, who may be feeling a similar way. To let myself and that other person know that it is okay to feel, it is okay to fall down ... and hopefully there are beautiful ears (like yours) that are ready to listen and helping hands (like yours) that are ready to (virtually) help you up, so we can learn to stand again and some day help someone else to stand too.

    That comment about social media is soooo true!!!! Thank you for your beautiful reminders and your wonderful suggestions. They are all so relevant and I sincerely thank you for taking the time to offer them. Already I feel strengthened. That old adage of 'iron sharpens iron' is very real. Thank you also for that kind comment on my writing. There is a story there but I will leave it for another time ... someday I will share with you ☺️

    fyi -- I think you should consider this quote for the motivational calendar 😉:  "I am not giving up, I am merely retreating to regroup and strike back - to come back to claim you, my purpose!"

    With warmest regards,

    Dahlia 🌸

    PS: I have no clue why we are calling ourselves 'old' he he he he ... 🤣

    I am purposefully driven to water the soil to grow the seed that is already planted. 

  • Aysa MC
    Aysa MC Member Posts: 16 ✭✭✭

    Dear @Dahlia T , I understood every word. Maybe I just can say that you should follow your heart. If it says "keep on and don't give up", so go there and punch it. In the future, nothing we did with our hearts (even if we went wrong) makes us regret. So if you follow your heart, it won't matter what happens in "the future". Any-way, you will stand and grow. (I don't have to say what happens if you were not wrong..., of course... you can imagine whatever you want, and that will be OK.)

    On the other hand, in the present moment, NOTHING seems to be neither stable nor safe. SO nothing can assure you that kind of things. If you are of the one warriors who went into a PhD, you'll succeed, no matter you do "in the future".

    I hope this helps a bit when you can't see the stars and the moon and so on...

  • Isurika Sevwandi
    Isurika Sevwandi Member Posts: 40 ✭✭✭
    edited March 20

    I've been reading this conversation for a while and couldn't figure out what to say but frankly speaking I felt so glad to be a part of this nurturing community and this empowering platform. However I'm learning from each and every post which is so rewarding.

    Dahlia, I wish you all the very best for your future endeavours and whatever happens do not forget that there is a blessing in disguise. Everything happens for a reason, it's either a blessing or a lesson. Hope this will warm you a bit more.

  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 110 ✭✭✭✭


    My dear @Dahlia T : 🤗

    Don't think there was anything in your post that could make anyone uncomfortable at all.

    I think most of us here on this platform would agree that this is a very special social network. Where we would like to share realities of academic life that could contribute to constructive changes. To ourselves and the system, potentially. Where we learn from each other, observe and distill reality, receive and offer support. At the very least, this is a place to vent to lighten our souls ("purging" - as you put it 🙂).

    So, its not a place just for upbeat stuff. There are plenty of social networking sites to cater to that. Yes - upbeat stuff, cute simplified memes - are all ok - sometimes. Not all the time. Because at the end of the day, they are only a (small) part of real complicated lives. (To be honest, I have a bit of an aversion for always upbeat 😉.)

    Curious about your story on writing. Hope you can share it with us some day. And totally hope you will start a blog. 🙂

    "Carefully choose when and where to be our real selves" Couldn't agree more. Guess life teaches all of us the same lessons. 😂

    One more point that got lost in my deleted comment - that I forgot to put in my second draft: "You had the guts to leave your stable job to pursue research once, you can and will be able to do so again after your temporary pause/detour. Because this is who you are and will always be - badass!" 😂

    Haha...the motivational calendar. Thank you. Will take you up on it one day. (Although the "retreat, regroup..." message is good, the sentence needs a bit more polishing to sound catchy. 😉 )

    PS: Am in my 30s. Dont know if that is old in terms of age and by which standards. Not that it matters to me. 😂 Have been saying "I am oldish" since my teens with the nuance "I am old enough to take responsibility". With a bit of life experience, I now say "I am old enough to take responsibility for what I am actually responsible for. No longer available as scape goat" Maturity, I guess. 😂

  • Dahlia T
    Dahlia T Member Posts: 40 ✭✭✭

    My dear @Aysa MC

    Thank you for your soulful words. There are those moments when we don't feel like the warriors we truly are and a beautiful soul (like yourself) steps in to gently remind us. We all need this from time to time. Most days, I am the one giving that boost, so today I will sit back and appreciate the lift I am getting from you and all the other beautiful souls here...all the while hoping that you too will find the strength you need at every turn.

    Warmest regards,

    Dahlia

    I am purposefully driven to water the soil to grow the seed that is already planted. 

  • Dahlia T
    Dahlia T Member Posts: 40 ✭✭✭

    My dear @Isurika Sevwandi,

    As I read through your comment with gratitude, this part especially spoke to me "Everything happens for a reason, it's either a blessing or a lesson." I dare say it is never easy to stop and think about what the situation may be trying to teach us, especially in the moment ...lol should I say 'moments'. When things go awry or when things do not seem to be working out how we 'expect' them to, we feel the ripples and we tend to see or be reminded of failure to accomplish X task ...we rarely remind ourselves of the success we gained by having gone after and actually done X, even if the outcome was not favourable. Thank you for helping me to refocus.


    Warmest regards,

    Dahlia

    I am purposefully driven to water the soil to grow the seed that is already planted. 

  • Aysa MC
    Aysa MC Member Posts: 16 ✭✭✭

    Thank you too, @Dahlia T 🌱

  • Percy Mdunge
    Percy Mdunge Member Posts: 2

    This post resonated with me a lot, so thank you for sharing. At the space I'm in, I do not even think I would have been able to articulate these thoughts as well as you have. I'm at the point in this PhD and academic journey where I'm ready to call it quits and find something else to do with my passion for teaching and social justice. I'll be coming back to read it and the comments again and again before making a decision.

  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 110 ✭✭✭✭
    edited March 31

    @Percy Mdunge I'm (partly) sorry to hear that you feel it is time to quit your PhD. But pretty sure that you've thought through your decision and you know this is the right decision for you. I hear a lot of conviction and decisiveness in your message.

    Just writing to let you know that it takes a lot of bravery to give up a PhD. I dig your courage.

    I'm pretty sure you'll do very well. Wherever else you focus with your passion for teaching and social justice, that place has gained, while academia has lost a passionate researcher.

    Wishing you the very best for your future.

    Ps. When (if) you feel up to it, please share with us what led to your decision.

    And more importantly, please keep us posted on how you feel, how you are doing, and about your future plans!

  • Dahlia T
    Dahlia T Member Posts: 40 ✭✭✭

    @Percy Mdunge, thank you for openly sharing your thoughts. I am not sure where exactly you are in your programme (i.e. if you have finished your comprehensive exams yet ...etc) and what the situation is for you in your department/lab/office. I do not know your 'exact' situation but I dare say I understand the turmoil you are feeling right now. 🍂

    This part of your message really touched me:

    I'm at the point in this PhD and academic journey where I'm ready to call it quits and find something else to do with my passion for teaching and social justice. 

    A part of my personal story is that along the way I found that my love for writing, teaching, and a desire to contribute/improve literacy ... with the ultimate desire to do good was slowly being eroded. Sometimes, it seems as if I had more confidence before I started my journey. I felt empowered and was motivated to follow my purpose. That was the reason I could take that leap of faith to start at the time I did. Over the years, less than suitable situations, people, and less than stellar guidance have slowly robbed me of my 'joy'. Rather than getting that sense that I was 'contributing', I felt I was constantly coming up on stumbling blocks, some of them deliberately placed. Rather than feeling like I was moving forward, I felt like I have been languishing. And I don't know why but I have become crippled by them, losing my confidence and my desire to do good. 🍂🍂

    Despite these odds, I have continued, I have stayed ...mainly because I was convinced of my 'why' and that I was in my current situation/place for a purpose that had to do with me and the persons with whom I would come in contact (lives I was there to positively touch). I openly share that it has been challenging trying to hold on to and remember that 'why', especially in the last year. Many times, I say to myself, what if I walk away now and my breakthrough is just around the corner? The truth is I don't know and I cannot tell you which way will be better. 🚣‍♂️

    As my eyes have properly opened, I have slowly started to see that an equal number of persons stay and an equal number of persons leave. Moreover, an equal number of persons finish and move to the next level, while an equal number finish but remain almost trapped in a spiral of unhealthy and unfulfilled. I personally know persons who have finished and are in their postdoc as well as others who finished and are struggling to get to the next step. Why one person gets to one level and the other does not is not fully shrouded in mystery ...as much of it has to do with the quality of the learning environment, mentorship, and opportunities they receive.👫

    I dare say to you to take some time to think of your 'original why' and whether it has changed ... maybe try to identify the 'whats' or the 'whos' that are causing you to feel the way you do. Try also to identify your pros and cons of staying versus leaving (not quitting ...leaving). Also, consider if it needs to be (i) a walking away 'permanently', (ii) a walking away 'temporarily', or (ii) a walking way that is all about balancing your scale --------------add something that makes you feel that sense of contribution to 'teaching and social justice' while continuing your programme 👣

    PS: Do not feel compelled to share certain things about your situation ... only if you are comfortable.

    PS: I sincerely hope you will find the answer and make the decision that is right for you. And whatever decision you make, do not worry about the voices that are not your own 🍂

    I am purposefully driven to water the soil to grow the seed that is already planted. 

  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 110 ✭✭✭✭

    @Dahlia T wow! Once again, as I read your comment, I felt this is my story. Words fail me. Thank you for this comment. 🙏

    "Why one person gets to one level and the other does not is not fully shrouded in mystery ...as much of it has to do with the quality of the learning environment, mentorship, and opportunities they receive.👫"

    EXACTLY!!! Only if we could tone down asking people to "work harder", be more "positive"/"resilient", manage their stress/time, blaming individuals when they "fail" to "manage"...and crank up the work on changing the environment, better mentoring, support systems, more channelised and level playground of opportunities. Only if we as an academic ecosystem recognize the core issues and stop slapping bandaid solutions through neoliberal individualisation that seems to only create and then blame victims.

  • Dahlia T
    Dahlia T Member Posts: 40 ✭✭✭
    edited April 7

    @Raj sundaram @Percy Mdunge , I hope you are both keeping well. I came here today to remind you (& self) that although many tiny events may have cumulated to cloud (y)our perception of self, ability, and purpose over time, who you (we) are at (y)our very essence is still there and you (we) can reach in to once again nurture it all, using all those adverse situations & people that were thrown at you (us) to be bricks used to rebuild and fortify (y)our foundation.

    In the seasonal cycle of life, spring always comes after winter 🌼

    I am purposefully driven to water the soil to grow the seed that is already planted. 

  • Percy Mdunge
    Percy Mdunge Member Posts: 2

    Thank you @Dahlia T , since having joined this community I have reconnected with my old blog and have been working on a short reflective piece that is still in the works but It was refreshing to reconnect with that old me in that blog.

    I've now decided to stay! Not sure what direction the PhD will take for now but taking it one day at a time. There's a lot of people in this space who helped me in direct and indirect ways and I want to say thank you to all of them 👍️.

  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 110 ✭✭✭✭

    Dear @Percy Mdunge : glad to know you have reconsidered your decision to leave and are keeping options open, taking it all one step a time...and are using this time to reconnect with your prior self! This platform and we are always here to support any decision you make!

    Hey @Dahlia T : I am ok. 🤗 Hope you are doing well! Sorry - I am still to respond to some of our other discussions. I just want to find some time to properly sit down, think about the content and respond.

    Right now...I guess pacing myself...as best as possible. Ah...purpose, who I am and essence...not enlightened enough to realize clearly!

    Just trying to keep some space in myself - to incorporate the answers - should I get to know who I really am, what my purpose and essence are. 😉 Meanwhile...trying to do my best to contribute constructively to those around me, to things that kind of matter (to knowledge, to people, to the planet), doing my job and duty as a human on this planet with a quite fully functional mind and body...sort of paying my "debt" to this planet for hosting me. 🤗

    

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