How to come to terms with long cycle of failure and move on?
May 10, 2012 8:51 AM Subscribe
After years of escapism, how to anchor life to meaning (or vice versa?) when almost four years of research hasn't amounted to anything?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (21 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a PhD student. I've been working on a research project of my choosing that has yielded me very little joy and continues to drain me intellectually---and for almost four years, I've been at it, and yesterday I kind of reached a breaking point with my long standing struggle to write. I know the process can be arduous, but the kind of anxiety, lack of encouragement I get reading what I've read tells me that I'm missing a key ingredient: knowledge.
I've had anxiety and depression issues, and am diagnosed with ADHD, but while I know these are factors in my struggle, they ultimately can't explain my months of burnout and indeed disgust for the way I feel about everything that's remotely related to my topic. Dissertation Midas Touch?
The caveat is, I now have a concrete (but extremely overwhelming) deadline...when my funding ends in less than half a year. After that, if I don't finish, I'll need to pack my bags and leave, and in a way this is a relief. An overwhelmingly strong voice is telling me to cut my losses and meet the challenge of finding something I'm passionate about, even though at my age, it entails some risk since I have little work experience outside academia. So I have no Plan B other than returning home and this is because I feel like thinking about this will detract from my already limited motivation...I have some support where I am, and I'll miss the friendships I've made along the way here...but the PhD has tainted so much of my lens of the world at the moment for me to enjoy their company or be good company. I'm at the point mentally where facing the fear and shame of returning with no tangible results is much less daunting than confronting the increased aimlessness and purposelessness I'm feeling at the moment.
My questions are (and I know that I ultimately must make the tough decisions):
-I know that I'm experiencing classic burnout, but at this point, juggling the deadline with R&R seems difficult, especially when I tend to view them as distractions from something dreadful I have ultimately to return to. Is there a way I can come to terms with that and still derive some joy from life?
-For those who've made the drastic choice to shift gears and put the project/PhD aside, what drove you forward to make that decision? Any insights?
-I've tried to trace the process in which I felt interest slipping away from me; but for some reason I can't get that passion back. Is there some way to rejuvinate interest at this point?
-I'd like to make the best of the time I have left, but I've rationalized lately that it isn't possible to finish barring a huge shift in mental capacity and motivation...any suggestions for budgeting the next four months of time?
I know this reads as disjointed, so please bear with me; I'm glad that I have enough within me to realize somehow I have to pick up the pieces...I just need some insight to how I might proceed with some courage and much more resolve. Thanks so much.