Meltdown and move on
Inside Higher Ed - 03/24/2016
A month ago, as the spring semester began to ramp up, I found myself on the edge of a minor meltdown. While attempting to create reading lists and schedules for the two comprehensive exams I’m working on this semester, my second-born—who had just turned nine months—woke up crying three times in the span of an hour. My wife has a full-time teaching job and so I usually take the night shift. As I tried for the third time to rock him to sleep, I began to panic. How am I going to get through these reading lists on schedule, not to mention write the required papers, if I’m constantly pulled away from my work?
He eventually fell asleep and so did I, and the next morning the panic subsided a bit and it occurred to me: the goals I was setting for myself were unrealistic. They were arbitrarily created based on the hope that I could finish my exams ahead of schedule and move into the dissertation phase. They didn’t account for my real life.
While you may not have a teething infant pulling you away from your work, we all have to balance academic goals with other responsibilities. Setting goals—even slightly overambitious ones—is a good thing, but we also have to be realistic.