I very excitedly and proudly announced earlier this year that I was beginning my PhD studies in Political Science after spending six months prepping for and taking the GRE and writing my application. It felt like a romantic return to my youth and optimism preparing for and starting law school 10 or so years earlier. In August I, rather self-assuredly, got started. I enjoyed it. I truly did – until about the fourth weekend and family dinner I had to miss. I quickly became (even more) exhausted and guilt ridden.
In October I deferred my admission to the program and stopped my studies. The reason is multifaceted but boils down to that exhaustion. At work I’ve recently been promoted – continuing to run my program while additionally launching and running a new privately funded center. I thought I could add studies to my plate right now, but it was already too full. Between my work, my travel schedule, and my class work the most important people in my life were paying the price: my children. My husband still got me after 10pm when I could no longer keep my brain focused enough to work or study, but my children were asleep by the time I relaxed.
I love my career and my interest in the PhD wasn’t related to making an immediate career shift. I love learning. I want to enjoy continuing my education, but instead I was rushing, overwhelmed, doing the minimum, and stressed.
One does not have to get a second doctorate-level degree and here I was acting as if it was the worst and most necessary burden. Then, when I did finally break and leave my course, I only told those in the department and my closest friends and family – embarrassed to have quit something.
So here I am, telling myself (and you), that not everything has to happen right now. I’m allowed to not want to be exhausted. I’m trying to unlearn that exhaustion and success must go hand in hand. Dissertations and statistics will still be there in 5 years and I believe I’ll start again – I know myself well enough to know I won’t let it go forever – but right now my life is in a sweet spot. My children are young and interested in my time. My career is demanding, but manageable and flexible. My marriage is strong and filled with laughter.
It’s OK to stop and enjoy it, rather than chasing the next credential – which isn’t what I wanted from the experience in the first place.
ETA a full year later: I have started class again and I am enjoying it immensely – a perk of the pandemic is the forced slow down in travel and events. That said, I continue to try my best to go easy on myself, walk slowly, think carefully, and protect my most important resource – my time.