Pieces Left Behind

I’ve been discussing grad school’s affect on one’s personality with a friend today. We’ve been speaking in terms of the pieces of ourselves left behind as we got/get closer to a degree.

Some of this is necessary. In order to write a dissertation, some parts of your life have to shrink a little. Your interests have to narrow, at least to a certain extent.

I miss the way I sought out new cultural experiences–ethnic restaurants, Broadway shows, museums of every kind, lectures on subjects I knew little about. Now, if I don’t have to go to an event on campus, I am overjoyed to be at home.

I also miss my sense of being an efficient person, very quick to solve problem. Even efficient dissertation work is still not efficient in my old sense of it.

I can’t totally blame this next part on grad school, I think part of it has to do with getting married, too–but I miss having nearly unlimited social energy. I ate every meal with someone else, hung out with multiple people in an evening on a regular basis, and sent ridiculously long e-mails to far-away friends. If I indulge these kind of behaviors now, I don’t have much energy left for my dissertation.

Some people outside of academia complain that they’ve lost the way they used to think deeply about things, so it’s not just a matter of finding the perfect job that complements all parts of yourself.

Still, it’s useful to think about how to care for those parts of yourself that are not getting constant exercise. One thing I’ve successfully reclaimed is pleasure reading. And a few weeks ago, I went to a tap-dancing show, and while it didn’t blow my mind, it felt good to give it a try. That’s what the old me would have done.


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