I feel like I'm trying to do too many things at once, all of them poorly. I also feel that I'm doing myself a big disservice by being in this situation. I feel like my life is in total disorder. I feel like I'm losing the race, to be honest. I'm afraid that the only way to win the race is to run faster, which I'm finding very difficult. Sordid details following.
I have a job that can take everything I throw at it and more
. Most of what I do is new to me. This would be really cool if the stakes weren't as high. I find myself in scenarios like, "Nomyte, I don't have any graduate students that can do this, can you figure out this byzantine software that my project will be relying on for the next six months, oh, over the next two days?" Or, better, "Nomyte, can you figure out how to analyze these data so our research team can submit this conference abstract by the Friday deadline?"
I really don't like working without a net in an environment where mistakes mean costly setbacks. I get new tasks before I can finish old tasks. I am answerable to an ever-growing array of people. My remaining feelings for human cognitive research are disdain and loathing. (I do really like the technical aspects of the job.)
I am doing my best to get into grad school. I've been taking math classes essentially non-stop for the past three years, ever since I was hired by the university. This semester is my first graduate-level class. It's really, really hard to combine my job with graduate-level math. Classes are only offered during the day. I am late to class and late returning to work (it's a ten-minute drive each way). I turn in incomplete homework. We are assigned interesting problems, but solving them takes time, experimentation, and insight. Several times a week I stay up working on homework late into the night. Several days a week I have to come in to work early. Several days a week I end up staying at work late. I end up working two weekends each month, not to catch up, but because people actually expect me to be available to weekends. I am at work right now. I've spoken to my instructor about this, but it feels like I'm actively hurting my chances of getting into the program. My supervisor sympathizes with me and recommends making up late days and weekends with weekday comp time, but there's rarely opportunity for that. Since we're part of a public university, we really have to make do with the staff we have.
I try to keep up with basic exercise. I'll do a couple sessions of 100 Pushups, but then I'll have a string of days when I get by on 4-5 hours of sleep and can barely function. Sometimes I have time to cook, sometimes I don't. I often forget lunch. I barely read for pleasure anymore, and I can only keep up with Flash games. I'll start something and then be unable to come back to it for a week or more. I used to sketch. I want to sketch!
I try to make time for leisure, and I'm obviously on Metafilter right now. But whenever I take time off, I'm afraid I only slip further behind. If I'm watching a movie, I feel anxious about not working on homework, or reading textbooks, or figuring out new research equipment, or looking at grad schools. I don't have time to attend talks or formal training. Or, of course, I could be working on self-improvement projects, or that book translation that's been sitting on the back burner for the past six months, or, hey, I should've been planning to do independent research if I want to get anywhere. And laundry, gotta make time for laundry.
Is bedlam a big part of everyone's experience? My life is drab and I feel worn out. What steps can I take to make it better? How do I prioritize the pieces? This feels like one of those times when you have to work hard for a while and then it gets better, except it's been going on for years. I find myself getting jealous of the amount of time my graduate student
housemates spend on leisure. I want a normal life, I want human relationships, I want personal fulfillment and financial security. I want my efforts to pay off. Help me get back on track and not get discouraged.