Diary of a Lazy Graduate Student: Part 1

As it turns out, I really hate to work. I didn’t grow up thinking I’d be lazy, but then I really should have; all the telltale signs...

As it turns out, I really hate to work. I didn’t grow up thinking I’d be lazy, but then I really should have; all the telltale signs were there.  I very easily abandon unfinished tasks without so much as a shred of guilt, all the while reminding myself that I am perfectly capable of finishing said tasks and am simply choosing not to out of some sort of obligation to a new, more important, undertaking.  During my undergraduate degree I switched majors several times, in the end returning to my original venture as it turned out to be the one easiest to finish in the shortest amount of time.  And because I was too imperceptive to realize my own personal shortcomings, I found myself in a postgraduate degree where hard work is a fundamental requirement.  It is true that for the first year or two into my doctoral degree I drifted along without the threat of impending degree requirements, trying out various dead end ideas and dropping them when I realized that they weren’t going to work out immediately; but several years in and the reality of going over time looming over me like a dark, rain-swollen cloud had me going insane. “This just isn’t for me,” I would tell anyone who was suckered into listening, “it’s not that I can’t do it, it just isn’t going to help me get to where I want to go”. “And what is it that you want to do?” some of the more astute listeners would ask me; to which I would respond with a shrug and a knowing smile as if I’ve got it figured out.  And so here I am, faced with the biggest dilemma I’ve reached yet: do I quit the most elaborate, expensive, time consuming “project” I’ve started to date? Or do I actually finish something for once?

I’ve been told that every Ph.D. student stumbles across this question at some point in his or her degree. This doesn’t make it any easier. I’ve been told that a steep, spiraling descent towards depression is normal at this stage; and while this may ease the pain for a brief moment, it certainly doesn’t make me any happier.  I’ve been told that regardless of what I choose to do with the rest of my life a doctorate will be an ‘asset’ in the real world as it “demonstrates a series of important skills and a good work ethic”. To these people I force out a laugh and say that it merely demonstrates my poor decision making skills.  This is where I find myself. Every morning waking up wondering what would happen if I just said “Fuck It” now.  I imagine myself dramatically sweeping all the unread papers from my desk in a blockbuster-worthy performance, and walking out amongst the falling papers with a knowing smile on my face that implies I know I’m going to great things with my life despite my failed Ph.D.  But let’s be real, we both know I’m not going to do that. First of all, I would almost certainly get a paper cut with all my dramatic paper throwing and whatnot, and what’s more, the incredible shame associated with quitting a degree like this four year in is enough to keep me treading water in this shit swamp for at least a little bit longer.

So now the real question is: why write this? That’s a great question, dear reader (notice the singular). I have no advice for similarly struggling students; no words of wisdom for how to cope with failure; no consolation for my fellow lazy adults who want to hear that we too can succeed (with minimal effort of course). My best answer is that I started writing it, and I wanted, for once in my life, to actually finish something.

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