Much Belated Introduction
It has been a while since I joined the PA. But it was not until this night
that I realized there is an introduction section. To be totally honest, I have
not familiarized myself with the full PA website. I am lazy on these types of
things. I postpone, I bookmark, I copy links, never to really go back. I just
came across thesis' introduction and
the check-ins they started with marcelor.
It inspired me greatly. Firstly, thank you for being so open about your
struggles, I relate a whole lot. Secondly, I also found recently that I do best
with 10-minute bursts, and the check-ins might give me a bigger picture in my
progress. So if you don't mind, I'll join in this system.
OK, time for the introduction. (Since thesis'
introduction is so fresh in my head, pardon any alignments.) I have always
thought about when my procrastination habit started. It is hard to pinpoint
exactly. I remember being a very successful student up until I was ~14. In the
elementary school, I used to work really hard and I was always the top of my
class. I remember the feeling of actually enjoying the work and being able to
maintain high concentration for hours. But there were also many occasions that
I would get really hooked up with TV and I would make last minute homework -
like waiting the whole weekend and trying to finish on a Sunday night when my
parents were getting angry about it. But somehow I managed to keep my cool and
I was successful. Around the ages 14-15, my habit started getting to me. I did
not enjoy work at all. Everything was getting incrementally faster; I could not
keep up with many of the subjects at school. I was growing up, I had other
things in my life that I wanted to enjoy. I was distracted. I was getting
extremely jealous of my top-of-the-class friends and there was growing anger and
frustration inside me. When I was 16, I remember specific days that I was
really frustrated and I was not longer able to keep up with everything, but I
somehow managed that year without a big failure. It all hit when I was 17. I
started getting really bad grades at school as the subjects got harder, which
was a shock to my parents, and they started me on private tutors immediately.
There was no way that I could keep up with some of the subjects. I had 2 years
until the very important university exams. I had a goal, but I did not have the
background to succeed.
Those two years took a real toll on me. I was extremely frustrated and felt
trapped. I could not study at all. I was at school during the day, and all the
other evening hours were busy with private tutoring and the weekends with group
tutoring. There was not even a time slot for me to it down and study myself.
Even if it was somehow carved out, I was too tired. I started sleeping to get
some rest, and also to escape it all. I became depressed. I was clinically
depressed for 2-3 years, which went undiagnosed for 1,5 years. In that period,
I started drinking alcohol, I started smoking, I started self-harm, I was
having continual suicidal thoughts, I started having repetitive thoughts and OCD-like
behavior. When I started seeing a counselor, I started feeling better with
therapy and medication. When young people are told "you either succeed
this thing, or you have absolutely NO future, kid", they believe in it. I
believed in it and I thought I had no future. I was a complete failure. There
was no life after that. I was lost and hopeless. I did not deserve anything.
The day before the exam, my physics tutor told me: "You know, life is
long, and there are many important things in it. This is just one step you are going
to take and you'll do great things in the future." I could not believe
that there was someone believing in me and giving me a bigger perspective than
all of this, in a hopeful way. This changed my attitude. I took the exam, I got
exactly the grade that I was expecting. So, no surprises there.
In the university, my depression continued for a while, and then I was
mostly healed. New friends, feelings for a future. My procrastination continued
in the same manner. I put off projects until the last minute. My parents were
always surprised how I was able to live under such stress the whole time. This
time, I was good enough not to fail anything. I was a mediocre student at a
mediocre school/department. I had failed to go to another city, which was one
of my goals before, and I kept living with my family. A couple of years went by
in a routine. My avoidance of future planning put me in a position in my last
year that I was soon going to be out of school and I did not have a plan. I
realized my classmates applied for masters programs while we were doing our
graduation projects; I had no clue, to be honest.
Also, when I graduated, I knew I needed a break from any type of school. I
pursued a job that I had as a summer internship. At the office, I was also
known for my procrastinative habits, and this was making me embarrassed
occasionally. Finally, for completely unrelated reasons, I quit that job and I
decided to apply for a master's in my dream school, meaning to start 8 months
later. I talked to my parents and I made it clear that I want to only focus on
this and not do anything else in those 8 months. They agreed and supported.
This was the time that a true healing occurred for me. I started believing in
myself again. I had a routine, every day I was working hard. I prepared a very
good application, each part was really good. I took classes about it in my
university. I took all the exams and got really good grades. I needed to get a surgery;
I got it out of the way. My university professors started saying that I was
going to do good things. I started to develop a very good sense of timing. I
began not to be late. I started finishing things early and having enough time
to test/to revise/to present. It was a very good period. I believed in me.
Then, I got accepted to the masters program at my dream school. I was
completely recharged. I kept these new successful habits. I was never late. I
finished and submitted projects before everyone else. I was confident. Since I
was a mediocre student in my undergrad, I did not qualify for this scholarship
that most of my classmates were taking. I was feeling bad because I was not
self-supporting in that sense. My parents paid for everything. But I did not
let this get to me. I kept really strong and motivated. I thought to myself
that the best would be to finish this degree asap, then to become
self-supporting. I also started dreaming of a PhD abroad. I started preparing
my applications in my second year, while I was writing my thesis and taking
classes. (Now looking back, I cannot believe how I managed all those things.)
Surprise surprise, I got into a school for my PhD which was beyond my dreams,
ever. I was super psyched. It felt like this was meant to be. My hard work paid
off in 3 years, I came to a very nice point in my life.
But, again, the first year came tough. It was really really hard. I also had
to end my long term relationship since I moved so far away. I started
developing all these anxieties and things similar to the university exam crisis
started surfacing. I got depressed again. This time, I was clever enough to get
support from the school medical. I started therapy and medication. I got back
up a month later. But, I stopped believing in myself. I started self-help. I
read motivational things. I knew PhD was a long process, I needed to develop
endurance. Persistence was what was going to help me in the long run. I got
some wisdom and experience along all the way, but it seemed like when it came
actually to put the work in it, I could not make it happen.
Meanwhile, I developed myself as a person. I also grew as a person. I
started running and exercising, I try to keep it as regular as I can. I stopped
smoking, I am smoke-free for 3,5 years now. I limit my alcohol intake. I seek
support when I need it. I know what makes me good now. I also know how to be
successful, what habits make me successful. But again, the whole 4 years of the
PhD experience was not very pleasant. I am late in everything. I never turned
in some of the final papers for some of my classes. I am late in my thesis. I
have not published enough. I have not been engaged enough. I have not produced
projects. I have not done many collaborations or offered any workshops/classes.
My CV is weak. My experience is limited. Most importantly, I stopped believing
in me. I lost the sense of timing. I have guilt and shame. My funding is going
to run over in May and I don't know what is to come. I have not been applying
for any jobs or scholarships. I am avoiding everything at this point. I lost
the big picture for myself.
I have been trying to build goals in the last month. I don't have any goals,
I cannot picture my future. I am at a point again, I cannot see further than
this degree. I am scared and embarrassed. I am angry at my close friend peers
because those who know my story think and say that I am here by accident, that
I was just lucky. Yes, I was lucky of course, but I put so much work into this,
I know I deserved it. Oh, how I really want to prove them wrong with my work! I
am at a place that I am very uncomfortable and vulnerable. Financially, I am in
a very difficult situation and it is only going to get harder after May. I do
not want to ask my parents for help any more. In the midst of all this, I feel
like I still have some time to do this right. I want to make this right. As
much as I can.
Each day is a new day. But it is hard to hang on sometimes. Especially while
losing faith, while letting so many unnecessary things get to me, while getting
frustrated over so little things, while the weeks/months go by like that, while
I get lonelier each day, while losing hope, while losing control over myself in
the smallest tasks...
So, here it goes. This was probably unnecessarily detailed and long, but it
was good to get it all out of my chest. There is also one thing I believe in,
"all worlds start with other worlds." Maybe some part of this will
help someone not to feel lonely. I am fighting my demons every day. I know that
I will help people one day, but first I have got to help me. I have got to put
the work. Nice to meet you.