“To be or not to be?”: Time and Graduate Life

The two sides of our time...photo by GradLife McGill Instagrammer @falisha.k

The two sides of our time…photo by GradLife McGill Instagrammer @falisha.k

Full name: Graduate Student. When your name is Graduate and your surname Student, you come to realize how the word time gets more and more often into your conversations. It’s always a matter of time: the time you are supposed to spend sleeping, the time for eating and feeding yourself up (yes, it does exist!), the time you would like to invest in hobbies or working out, the time to wake up, the time to love, the time to submit a paper, to get out from the library, to study, to read, to teach, to cheer, to…what?  Although you may find as many ways to talk about your graduate time as David Foster Wallace would do (and have a look at Infinite Jest’s footnotes to have an idea), there is one time that would never disappear, that is the time that we lack, the time that we may need to do all the things that we want to do.

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Making time for myself

As an undergraduate, my day-to-day existence was a predictable weekly pattern consisting of lectures and lab sessions, homework, shifts at my part-time jobs, and time to just chill and have fun with my friends and flatmates.   This prescribed and comfortable routine changed a LOT when I entered the strange universe of grad school as a M.Sc. student; suddenly I was only taking a course or two each term, and spending the rest of my time figuring out how to do this thing called “research”.  Now, as a Ph.D. candidate, my time has become very much my own to manage.

It’s funny: at first I assumed that the lack of course work would translate into a nice, stable, 9-to-5-ish existence, similar to the one I had when I was in the workforce and had a Real Job.  Then the reality of the enormous amount of work I had to do hit me.  Sometimes it seems like there are simply not enough hours in the day to get it all done and that I’m forever juggling how I prioritize items on my to-do list   One thing that I am consistently guilty of shuffling onto the “To attend to later – way later” pile – is me.

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Now and later

My friends often make fun of me because of how obsessed I appear to be with schedules.  And, yes, I will play on this by pretending to be some sort of crazy OCD, superbly self-disciplined machine who sticks to his schedule AT ALL COSTS.  But, the harsh reality is that I’m not at all this obsessive overstructured freak that I proudly claim to be.

I’m a procrastinator.  In fact, I have been one for 24 years.  And, I say “24” years (i.e. my entire life), because I apparently wouldn’t even come out when I was being born – hence, making me a C-section baby.  So, I have a pretty well-established habit of putting off until later what should be done now. (more…)

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