Grad Life

I haven’t written in a long time. There are many reasons for that: I worked a lot to finish my first paper that was finally sent last week, I feel less the need to write but above all, I didn’t have anything new to say about the Israeli society. Either it’s because I said everything I could about it (okay I didn’t talk about politics but honestly, “ein li koach” – I don’t have the courage) or because after 3.5 years here, I got so used to it that I don’t see it with the fresh eyes of the new immigrant. I will probably write one day about kids and education but for now I don’t have enough material.

My dear friend B. started her Ph.D. a little bit less than a year ago, and she wrote about how it is nerve-wrecking and interfering with her social and love life. She is a perfectionist and never stops digging deeper when she’s interested in something; so I am not surprised it is hitting her hard. I also know that because of her passion, pretty much anything I could say to discourage her to work too much and put her health at risk will not be heard. But it made me think about my own attitude toward the Ph.D.

From the beginning, I decided to take it as a job: I told myself I would not work more than 10 hours a day, would not work over weekends and not answer work related emails outside of office hours. I didn’t decide this out of laziness but rather because after observing people in the workplace or doing their thesis, too many of them were staying longer than they had to but actually working less. I truly believe in the idea that most people are not working efficiently more than 3-4 hours a day. Thus, we would probably be happier and more efficient if we would have half the time to do what we need to and no time to procrastinate. So I’d rather leave the lab and do something fun when I feel that I finished everything I could on that day, really relax, not think about it, and come back the day after with energy and will.

The no-mail policy worked pretty well as well. My supervisor sent me some at the beginning, like he does with the others, but I didn’t answer before the day after or the end of the weekend, and it soon became a very rare occurrence. Which turned out to be a very good thing given that after a while, simply seeing his name on my phone would make my stomach twist – but this is another story.

Sometimes I feel guilty. I feel like I should have worked more, read more, thought more about my thesis, and push things further. But if I am being honest, I know that I couldn’t really have done this without jeopardizing my physical and mental health. I mean, it is enough that I experienced my first panic attack already. I needed to relax in the evening and workout, I needed to spend time with friends and not think about my research, I needed the sleep and the vacations. I didn’t waste my time during work hours, and if things were slow I mostly read, not always related to my research but they say that it is important to be interested in all kind of things as the ideas might come from totally unrelated topics.

So I shouldn’t feel guilty for most likely not being able to finish my most interesting project on time. But I guess that it is the price of all Ph.D. students, just like the imposter syndrome…

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