Darling, like all things in life – there is theory and there is practice (*). So here is the theory of graduate school: IT’S ALL ABOUT THE NICE PEOPLE
- trust yourself
- stick with people you like
- do what you love or what is worth the tradeoff (doing a job that you don’t really like but gives you the money to live/ go to grad school/ save up for what you want to do)
- the smartest person might not be the best person to work with
Getting a Masters or PhD is like walking into a huge convention center full of people talking; it’s overwhelming at first. So hang out with your cohort and slowly figure out who some of the people are: who you want to get close to and listen to, who you want to avoid. This takes time and there will be many times when it seems like everyone else knows what is going on. No one knows what is going on.
Just keep walking forward and as you learn you will realize all the stuff you don’t know. You will get your degree with a profound sense that you know nothing at all. That’s normal.
There is sometimes a temptation in academia to
- flex what you know – don’t. You know may know squiggles, but you don’t know do-hickeys or humdingers, stay humble.
- want to work with the ‘star’ professor or the person whose interests match yours – don’t. What you really need is the person who will encourage you to go in your direction.
- dismiss bad behavior/ abusive/ mean comments as “oh this prof just wants everyone to work to their potential” or “he’s dedicated” or “she wants everyone to work as hard as she does” – don’t think that. Even if there is someone who is doing fascinating research and exactly what you want to be doing, if they yell/ treat anyone badly, they will eventually treat you badly. Don’t stick with a prof or colleague who belittles you or anyone else. Find a different person. When you find work you love, you will do it without force, not that it’s easy – but you will feel that it is worth it.
Classical Women Reading by a Temple, Henry Thomas Schaefer