Hopeful vs. Stubborn

On the end of my first day of the new job, I’m elated that it’s going so well… but I’m miserable because I’m seriously contemplating quitting my Ph.D. program. And then, out of nowhere, the most amazing coincidence came about and floored me.

I’m not one to believe in “signs” or “meant to be” or any of that. I’m cynical and pragmatic. But tonight’s startling turn of events could make me question my certainty.

I’ve got a bitch of a week of school assignments due this week. In fact, I have a major assignment that was due yesterday that I’m already significantly behind on, and I’ve barely started it. Yes, a good portion of that is my own fault because I lulled myself into a false sense of security when I was being laid off, thinking I was about to have plenty of time to get schoolwork done, and reverting back to the good old days of having a life… And found myself behind schedule, so I’ve been scrambling for the past week or two to catch up. I haven’t been entirely successful, and I’m stressed.

I literally found myself this evening staring at the week ahead — this holiday week, mind you — and drafting my resignation letter in my head. I even looked up the policies around partial refunds for withdrawing from classes, returning unearned student loans if you don’t finish the semester, etc. And while I was in this state, I remembered that a friend from Charlotte is in a Ph.D. program like mine (different field, but also for working professionals) and I idly glanced at Facebook to see if he was online.

He wasn’t, but then I noticed that I had a message waiting for me. It was from him, coincidentally, and this is what it said:

“Today is the first day of my summer semester (my very last semester of classes finally!!!) At the end of the summer, I will be ABD, and working only on my dissertation over the next year. Thought of you… Stay strong, you will get here soon enough!”

ABD stands for all-but-dissertation, meaning you’ve finished your classes and now you’re on to your research. It means that you’ll become a Ph.D. when you have finished your research, written it up, and defended it. It means you’ve moved past the classes and are knee-deep in the area that you’re passionate about.

I’m a year and a half away from being ABD… And I don’t know if I have it in me. Between a new job, and a wedding, and what used to be a life, I just don’t know if I will make it that far. Hell I don’t know if I will make it through the end of the WEEK. But damn, that was amazing timing.

I also took a few minutes in my mental dilemma to look up what’s happening in these two classes between now and the end of the term. One of them isn’t posted yet, but the other one… when I look at the reading, writing, and project assignments, it’s fascinating. It’s the kind of thing that I would want to do even if it wasn’t required through a school program.

And that right there reminds me of why I wanted to get in this program in the first place. I’m interested in this field. I’m passionate about this field. I may find the long hours of schoolwork each week daunting, but nobody ever said getting your Ph.D. would be easy. I may get frustrated when I feel that some professors aren’t providing the value that I would expect from them, but from what I gather, that’s pretty common among Ph.D. programs in general. But damn, I do love this field. I love many of the topics we cover, the books we read, the discussions we have.

I can’t decide if I’m more hopeful that it will turn out to be worth it, or stubborn in my desire to stick it out for the sake of not quitting. I suppose in the end, it’s probably a bit of both. For now though, I just have to find a way to get through this week. Like an alcoholic — one day at a time.

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