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Sometimes, I cry while working on my dissertation

Sometimes, I cry while working on my dissertation

Doing a dissertation is an emotionally draining process. It is known. I have many different ways to cope, but I sometimes find myself crying.

I am not alone in this; my sister was told at the beginning of her PhD Journey that if she did not cry at least twice in her first quarter, then there was something wrong with her.

I have not been shy about discussing the emotional toll of a PhD (see Pre-proposal is Hell and Not a Marathon, Not a Sprint). So today, I thought I would put it out there: sometimes, I cry when I work on my dissertation and that’s OK with me.

I cry when:

  • I think about working on my dissertation proposal.
  • When I see the file where my dissertation proposal lives.
  • When I see the document itself.
  • When I open the file.
  • As I type.
  • When I hit save.
  • When I close the file.
  • When I put away my work.

I cry because:

  • I am tired and feel that I can’t push anymore, even though I sleep and rest.
  • I can’t make my arguments work properly.
  • I have made arguments in so many different ways, I feel I am going around in circles.
  • I will never be able to read enough to find all the right citations.
  • I think I am close to finishing, only to realize that I have just begun.
  • I finished my comps two years ago and still have no proposal defended.
  • I feel alone in this journey despite all the support I have from my husband, my sister, and my PhD Project family.
  • I fear that even when I finish, I will not be healthy enough to pursue my dream job of being a professor.

And yet, even after all the tears, I keep pushing.

I keep pushing because:

  • I love how this process has already helped me see the world in a different way.
  • I am excited to see how much more I can learn.
  • I love asking questions about why the world works in a particular way.
  • I am getting the tools and skills to answer the questions I have.
  • I love having conversations about the nature of the social world.
  • I now have many different frameworks to understand the social world.
  • I love how people are weird and imperfect, and we create weird and imperfect organizations and systems.
  • It is awesome to learn and study how these organizations and systems span generations of people and somehow remain functional (sometimes).

But most of all, I keep pushing because it is the only way I will truly become a social scientist.

Expanding your mind is not easy. Breaking down previous ways of looking at the world is not easy. Re-building the way you understand the world is not easy.

So yes. There are tears. But what is most important here is that, to me, the tears are worth it.


Claudia González (@ScienceClau) is a PhD Candidate in Strategic Management at the University of Washington. This story was published on August 30, 2016, on Claudia's blog, Dyslexic PhD (available here) and has been republished here with her permission. 

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