Since my decision to get back into my Ph.D. program and finish my dissertation, I’ve felt pretty good. Dare I say it? I also felt a bit confident (that’s a strong word to use in a world where constant doubt is the norm). I am confident in my decision to come back and get the degree. Only a two-week stint in the 9-5 world was enough to show me that I need to teach and, whether I like it or not, my mental illness demands a job where there can be some flexibility (like being able to cancel a class when you’re having a breakdown).
A lot of the confidence I felt when I came back last month has vanished already, as soon as I started writing. It’s almost been a year since I’ve done academic writing and it is NOT an easy thing to get back into. Even when I was writing, I knew that one has to write every day, even if it’s only a paragraph. But still, I’m barely writing a paragraph per day and while it’s still something, there’s still always the feeling of “this isn’t enough.” I know that this is normal. Friends who have finished their degrees tell me that. I’ve seen online articles about different styles and different goals for writing. I’ve tried to apply them and yet I still haven’t found the best formula for me. I feel that I should have figured it out already and maybe that’s the fear: that if I haven’t figured out how to write productively constantly then how can I be an academic?
Not having the best communication with my previous director, I felt that everything I wrote was shit. Obviously, he never said anything close to that, but impostor syndrome is real y’all. Every one needs something different from their advisor. My good friend prefers to rarely speak to her advisor; another friend says he feels like “sunshine and rainbows” after meeting with his advisor and always seeks her advice. I’m somewhere in-between. I want the independence to write, but need a particular type of criticism; my new director, who I worked with at a literary journal and had as a professor, always writes positive notes (“great!” “this is really good!”) along with the criticism of what needs to be improved. This mix really helps with the constant presence of imposter syndrome: you’re good, you’re not great, but you can do this! He did tell me once “You’re not the smartest Ph.D. we’ve had, but you’re good and you need to get your degree.” Maybe it’s weird, but that’s just what I needed to get back into it. Now, if only I can focus on writing the dissertation instead of writing about writing the dissertation.