On Wednesday, my supervisor came into the office and pointed out something in my data that was really obvious. I was so embarrassed that I didn’t see it. I’m in my 4th year of my PhD. I’ve always been told that, by this point, I should be the expert. Clearly, that’s not the case.
I realized that night that I’m just no good at research. I just haven’t been able to develop the skills that I should have by now. I don’t know how to figure out stuff on my own – or if I do, it’s wrong, and my supervisor probably thinks I’m an idiot. I can’t sit down and read papers and understand what they did. Basically, I feel like I need my hand held the whole way or I won’t get anywhere.
I have no idea what I’m doing, and I worry more each and every day that I get closer to my PhD defense. Right now, there is no way they are going to pass me. The committee is going to ask me questions and I will have no clue how to respond. They’ll find out that I’m a fraud.
I know that everyone feels this way at this point: six months to go and it feels like the fattest man in the world is sitting on your shoulders. But, for some people it must be real, and not just caused by stress. After all, not everyone passes their PhD defense. Will I be one of them?
My saving grace (I thought) was having good communication skills. That maybe my writing abilities would help me start a career in technical writing or something. But, after the reviews from my last paper, that’s clearly not the case either.
That’s okay – I still have hope. Maybe the fact that I’ve been running outreach programs and doing activities for six years is worth something. Nope! I was told last night that I basically suck at outreach – that I don’t entertain my entire audience. First of all, I’m not going to stand up there in a clown suit so a 4 year-old will pay attention to me. Second, 75% of the group were engaged and were asking really great questions! I’m sorry that the other 25% weren’t interested, but that happens with any group, no matter the age. I’m not going to cater to the lowest common denominator — I’m going to make it interesting and (GASP!!) educational for as many of the students I can. Yes, I’m going to use words they had never heard before – and it’s okay if they don’t understand it all right now! The point is to show them things they’ve never seen! I can’t help if some kid wouldn’t even pay attention if Spongebob Squarepants was up there.
First, I’d like to tell everyone that has criticized me this past week to shove it. You try running two outreach programs and doing PhD research and see how things go. Please – I’m sure you can do much better.
Second, if anyone else out there has gone through something similar, or has advice on how to move forward or get over it, please share it with me. Right now all of this is just way too overwhelming and I might just kick someone in the head.