On Milestones and Maladies

This week was a pretty big one for me. On Tuesday, I successfully completed part II of my candidacy exam. So I’m a PhD candidate now! Hurrah!

The exam had been looming over me for some months. Due to scheduling issues within the committee, the date was pushed back to later than it usually occurs. The extra time to prepare was nice, but it was also extra time for anxiety. I’m not the sort of person to put in 80 hour weeks, nor do I think it would have been helpful, but I started to feel a vague sort of guilt anytime I wasn’t studying or working on my candidacy talk or paper. So of course I feel quite relieved now that it is over and done with!

But—there’s always a but—a lot of my anxiety hasn’t gone away. This isn’t totally surprising, as I have been previously diagnosed with anxiety, so this is just part of my life and the way my brain works. It’s still annoying, that I’ve so easily begun now to worry about this new stage of my graduate career. Luckily, I am quite happy with the area I’ve chosen and my current advisor, so I don’t need to worry about changing that. But I do have to organize my thesis committee and at least start to come up with a general idea or theme for my thesis. I’ve been putting off thinking much about this before as a post-candidacy problem…well now it’s post-candidacy, so here are all my delayed worries come to rear their heads.

This is, as far as I can tell, enormously common! Achieving a milestone is wonderful. It can feel very great and relieving. But it can also be anticlimactic in some ways, and after all is said and done, you’re still the same you as before the milestone.

For me, the best thing to do is make a list and keep on going. I don’t have to figure everything out today. Today, I can just enjoy my accomplishment and also check off one new task. Onwards and upwards, but never forgetting how far I’ve come!

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