Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Getting a Ph.D. is a  §

wildly exhausting sort of thing to do, at least if you’re solidly middle class. People always tell you so before you start, and you doubt them, and when you start you begin by thinking, “Hey, this isn’t so tough, I can manage this…” but eventually it sort of creeps up on you mentally-emotionally that you are constantly taxed.

Back in regular life, I had three basic “critical to my personhood” threads of being:

1. Work for wages to live
2. Consume with those wages (i.e. shop, pay rent and bills, repair car, etc.)
3. Maintain personal relationships through interaction

As a Ph.D. student, the following get added:

4. Produce other, very difficult and time-consuming work for no wages
5. Maintain professional relationships that are voluntary for the other party
6. Learn/accumulate/study knowledge at an insane rate
7. Traverse bureaucratic structures (i.e. paperwork/hoop jumping) continuously
8. Assemble a CV/career path (not automatic in academics from #’s 1, 2, or 5)

If you fail do keep current on any of 4-8, your whole project collapses, probably for good. But if you let 1-3 slide, you can’t possibly maintain the energy or emotional resources to do 4-8. Meanwhile, the expenses incurred under 2 go through the roof as you pay for all of the additional resources demanded for 4-8, even as the cash produced by 1 falls through the floor due to limited time (and awakeness).

All of these tasks scream out for full-time dedication to do them well. Of course, because there are 8 of them and you still have to sleep and eat and commute (a lot), you end up being able to give each of them something like 1/16th of what they deserve.

At any point, when you try to prioritize by asking yourself “What should I be working on now?” the answer that comes screaming back at you from the depths of your consciousness is “EVERYTHING, BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS BEING NEGLECTED AND EVERYTHING IS WAY BEHIND! PANNNNIC!”

It constantly feels as though either

A) The whole house of cards will come tumbling down, or
B) You will end up homeless and friendless, or
C) Your body will come tumbling down with your snoring head on top of it

Just a little rant, that’s all.

It seems like I’ve said this every season since I got here, but this fall will be the toughest, busiest season of my life so far, by a reasonably frightening margin.