“You sound really passionate about what you’re doing with your life,” a guest at a dinner party recently said to me, voice dripping with sarcasm.
In my current state of existence, deep in grad school, I can’t say I have much passion for anything anymore, except maybe sleep. I don’t actually get it, but I sure am passionate about the idea of it.
I had just finished explaining to the dinner party that spending 18-plus hours a day staring at a computer screen was taking its toll on both my eyeballs and my soul. In return for my honesty, I received blank stares and awkward silence. Side note: I’m free next Friday night if anyone needs a party ruined. Although I felt the energy leave the room, I’m not sure exactly where I went wrong.
I suppose one tactic would have been excessive enthusiasm. “Grad school is the best. I just LOVE working on group projects on Sunday mornings! I am deeply passionate about public budgeting and analyzing spreadsheets! And you know what the best part is?” I’ll say with a sparkle in my eye. “The amount of money I’m spending. I love spending money! More money on spreadsheets!”
I somehow doubt that would have made the dinner party less awkward.
And I get it. Even for me, the idea of going back to school seems so romantic. There will be reading, discovering, discussing. There will be innovation and collaboration! There might be sciencing! With beakers and bunsen burners! When I think of grad school, I think of a bunch of smart people sitting around passionately discussing smart things and making each other smarter.
What I forget about is the sinking feeling in my stomach when I look around a classroom and wonder what the fuck everyone else is talking about. I forget that the moment my alarm goes off in the morning, I think, “I can’t do this. I cannot open another textbook, or respond to another class discussion thread, or learn a new theory or standard deviation of something. I will just quit instead and then I can go back to sleep.”
It’s not all bad. There is a great deal of satisfaction in mastering new things. I have the most badass spreadsheets now. I can’t even tell you how much joy a good spreadsheet brings me these days.
But at this point — and I think I speak for all grad students across the universe — we’re ready for this part to be over so we can go back to being passionate about whatever led us to grad school in the first place.
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