PhD Students Reminding Themselves Not to Quit

Doctoral research can be very isolating at times, even when your research is part of a collaborative team. There are periods when you just have to sit down and write. Sometimes these periods are for weeks and months. I usually welcome some peaceful and solitary time by myself. Maybe it’s because I am at the halfway mark in my candidature, but I have had some freak out moments realizing time is quickly running out and I initially planned to do so much. The long weekend was a good time to take a step back and figure out what to prioritize.

I spent most of the June long weekend on campus, mostly in the library. I expected it would be dead quiet, with most people wanting to get out of the city. I told myself this would be a wonderful opportunity to go back to one of the places I have always enjoyed spending some time in: the library. Lo and behold, the library on the Sunday of a long weekend was packed! Although I missed the dreamy and fanciful notion of philosophizing and pondering my research, I was able to meet and work with other doctoral researchers who are in their final stages of thesis writing.

One is a nuclear theoretical physicist who is finishing up in four months. The other one is an immunologist finishing in February. Although I initially thought I had so much work to do, I realized that there is still the inevitable immense push close to the end of the candidature. Not that I was celebrating other people’s stressful moments, but I found comfort in witnessing other people feeling the pressure like I did. The three of us had to sit down and write and confront the big tasks. There was no avoiding it anymore. What I also found that weekend was support and validation that I was not alone in my suffering.

We all chose this. In fact, we applied for it and have been lucky enough to have been accepted! I have two years to go still, and so I cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel just yet. I see it though in those other researchers. There will be some amount of pain, but they keep reminding me that quitting is not an option. We just keep showing up each day, doing the best that we can and keeping at it. We know deep down that all of the challenges are worth it. Ultimately, we find purpose in our research. We enjoy the field we are in.

‘Suffering is temporary. Publications last forever.’ (A bit of postgraduate humor.)

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