I don’t usually use this forum for work-related stuff, but I put a thread up on Twitter this morning about education, especially PhD education, and it has the kind of geopolitical feel that made me want to echo it, and maybe expand it a little, here. The road to a PhD has always been hard. Mine was considered relatively short, at five years, but it wasn’t easy and it was full of stories of faculty members making me feel like shit, and just generally feeling like shit, but also full of stories of feeling incredibly fulfilled and accomplished. If you spend any time the side of Twitter where academics roam, especially graduate students, you might wonder why anybody would ever even try to get a PhD. How is this geopolitical? Because I think its roots are in classic America-good-and-others-bad propaganda.Continue reading “What do I want to do when I grow up?”
It’s been a while since I’ve written anything. It’s been a combination of a few things, including work-related travel, being busier at work, and being really disheartened by the state of the world. This blog has helped me handle that feeling in the past, but over the last couple of months, trying to put fingers to keyboard seemed to make it worse. The state of things is so upsetting to me that I’ve even moved away from my morning routine. This routine includes sticking my iPad into a resealable plastic bag and setting it on a ledge in the shower so I can get my morning dose of news, flipping between CNN, MSNBC, and FoxNews. I still have most of this morning routine, and still put my iPad in plastic and bring it into the shower with me, but instead of news, I turn on a West Wing rerun to start my day. The policies from the White House bother me, and the shootings hurt my heart, but I think more than any of it, the division is what pains me the most.
I saw this on a friend’s FB thread this morning and couldn’t stop thinking about it. Not because I hadn’t considered the premise before; I’m familiar with Dunning-Kruger. I was struck by the inability to decide which is better. Not that we can help or determine which defines us better. We are either full of doubt or confident, and I’m quite sure that it’s not always aligned with intelligence (I know plenty of people who I consider very intelligent who at least appear to have no doubt whatsoever, and I know a few people who I don’t think of as very intelligent who are plagued by doubt). But, given these two options, in a false dichotomous kind of world, which is better?
I’m a generally happy person in some ways, a bit melancholy and down in others. Some of it depends on the day, or maybe the way the planets are aligned for all I can figure out. I certainly let people bring me down, probably more than I should. I am deeply saddened by people being bigoted and drawing conclusions based on misinformation. People tell me that I have to let that go, and that I shouldn’t let it bother me, but that requires some control over what does and doesn’t make me sad. Control that I simply don’t possess. It makes me wonder if anybody has that kind of control. Can anybody really decide that something isn’t going to make the sad, and then, poof, it doesn’t make them sad anymore? That seems so foreign to me, but a superpower I would really like to have.
Here’s an important backdrop for pretty much anything I can imagine posting here: I am undoubtedly an emotional person. I get choked up watching movies all the time, and sometimes I get so frustrated that I want to scream. My hope is always to put this aside when I discuss an issue. I think this has been a problem on FaceBook in the past, because people see my arguments as emotional, and place emotion that they imagine on them, when the intent is to be an emotional void. It’s not that I don’t like emotions, it’s not that I think they’re bad. It’s simply that I think our decision-making process is not always the best when we throw emotions into the picture. Some might say that it’s impossible to remove them, because we are, indeed, emotional beings, but I try hard to separate them nevertheless. I tried to explain this to my lovely wife last night, and her first response was to laugh out loud and call me crazy, but after a bit of explaining, I think I won her over, and convinced her that even though I get emotional, I try to keep that out of these decisions/discussions/debates.