As I enter the 9th month of my thesis research (and the analysis portion of my data collection) I have suddenly been smashed in the chest with a paralyzing self-doubt about pretty much everything: my research, my ability to succeed, my life choices, my career prospects…my future in general.
I exist among a cohort of family and friends who are established in their careers and beginning to make real headway in their professional lives – I am the lowly graduate student among them with nothing but unknown in front of her.
It is terrifying.
I spent nearly six months formulating, perfecting and pitching my thesis proposal (after a very disappointing denial of my first proposal). I came at it the second time with more passion, knowledge and willingness to fight for what I think will be a valuable edition to the academic scholarship.
But now, as each day passes in my sea of research, I have become more mentally worn down, my stress levels have begun to rise and I seem to have lost the passion with which I began this journey.
As I sat here earlier today staring at my computer screen, prepared to analyze yet another piece of data, I suddenly thought to myself: who cares?
Who the hell is going to care about this (other than me, and even that’s questionable at this point)? Why does this matter? Who’s going to read it? What if the data I’ve spent so long collecting and analyzing is meaningless? What if I can’t find a clear way to articulate my findings? What if I find nothing?
What if my project is a big flop?
I have been working toward this moment for nearly four years. I poured my heart and soul into my work in order to excel. I sacrificed social time, hobbies, and weekends away to spend countless hours researching and writing papers, preparing presentations, suffering my way through rigorous coursework and gracefully accepting constructive criticisms of my work from faculty I admire, all to get here. This moment. And now that I’m here, I’m not sure I want to be.
I miss the days among classmates discussing complex ideas in the comfort of our classroom – I could have stayed there forever.
But alas, I am here. Spending hours upon days upon weeks alone in my little office poring over all of the information I’ve gathered hoping to piece it into a somewhat recognizable picture.
I know all of the doubt is fear…or maybe it’s exhaustion.
I’m fairly certain the feelings will pass and the knots in my stomach will relent. I look forward to a time where I will once again sleep through the night.
When I send my completed thesis to the printer and prepare to present my findings I am sure I will look back at these moments of self-doubt and feel proud of what I’ve accomplished.
What I’m doing will matter. It will all be worth it in the end, I’m sure of it.