Back in August, I made it clear that getting a master’s degree was a terrible idea. Agony, I tell you. Completely optional agony.
Looking back, my bachelor’s thesis felt much the same way.
So naturally with nary a day off I’ve begun my PhD.
As I described in my post-master’s victory speech,back in 2011 I thought I’d be a great PhD student. But when I decided I’d be a great master’s student, too, I effectively dropped out of the PhD program and had to reapply. Evidently the master’s counted as enough penance for my mistake of dropping out that the University took me back.
I don’t really have an elegant way of explaining why I’m getting a PhD. Try, try again? If you’re going through hell, keep going (into a fresh, new hell)? Because I’m bound to get good at thesis writing one of these times?
In some ways this is a grander challenge than many others I can think of doing with myself. I also do enjoy it, deep down. I get to travel, meet interesting people, learn a lot, contribute something to society.
Matt Might is a Computer Science professor and blogger who I’ve never met, but greatly admire because his blog seems to have all of the practical advice my life has been missing, like using key-based ssh logins and the proper way to write an email. You know, the basics. (Maybe more basic for grad students than others.)
He’s also the genius behind the Illustrated Guide to a Ph.D., part of which is shown above.
He describes the PhD this way, as I think the Catholics out there will appreciate:
Ph.D. school is a monastic experience. And, a jealous hobby.
Solving problems and writing up papers well enough to pass peer review demands contemplative labor on days, nights and weekends.
Reading through all of the related work takes biblical levels of devotion.
Ph.D. school even comes with built-in vows of poverty and obedience.
The end brings an ecclesiastical robe and a clerical hood.
Basically: I actually want to be a monk, but that would really interfere with my love of wine and flying in airplanes, so I’ve chosen to be a PhD student instead.
Also, something about climate change or whatever.
Regardless of the reasons, I’m doing it. As I prepare for my qualifying exam, this semester is going to consist of a LOT of reading, a fair bit of writing, and quite a deal of thinking.