March 20, 2011

The awkward interim period

**I've been a little too silent lately, so to make up for it today will be a 2-for-1 posting.

Today I wanted to comment on the awkward situation I find myself in after declaring that I will no longer pursue the PhD, but before I have actually left graduate school. This awkward interim period, at least from others in my situation that I have talked to, is fairly common. Many students agree to stick around at least through the end of the semester to wrap up projects. This helps advisors because projects are (hopefully) left in a state where a new grad student could pick them up and continue; it also benefits the student because they can continue earning a paycheck while they look for outside employment.

I was lucky in that I was in-between projects when I decided to leave, and since I explained to my advisor that I am leaving because I strongly dislike benchwork, they agreed to let me continue in other capacities. I have a TA position that pays most of my salary, and I offered to help with writing and editing manuscripts for our group as well as other lab manager-esque duties. This agreement has been satisfactory for both my advisor and myself (although I do find myself frequently bored and scrounging for something productive to do). The awkwardness comes from my labmates.

In the first few weeks after I said I was leaving people were still talkative, asking me how my job applications and interviews were going, but I slowly saw this change into something else. I'm not sure if it was resentment, jealousy, condescension, or just inconsideration, but suddenly whenever there was a tedious crap-job to do my labmates would ask me to do it. It was the way they asked me that really got under my skin: "Why don't you do ______ for me? It's not like you're doing anything else." Some of you will read this and say, "Yes Ms. MSmind, they have a point." They did have a point, but let me break it down for you: 1) Just because I wasn't sweating in lab doesn't mean I wasn't working; at the time I had several writing projects that I was finishing up for my advisor. 2) I was mostly rankled by the underlying assumption that their time was somehow more valuable than mine. I feel that if you take on responsibilities or make commitments to do something you should uphold that, not foist the work onto someone else. 3) Quite honestly, if they had approached me with a more ingratiating attitude and requested that I assist them instead of trying to shove it on me I probably would have helped.

by flickr user bazylek100
Now enough time has passed that I'm essentially forgotten about. With my close friends in the group, nothing has changed and we still chat like we did a year ago, but it seems like the most anyone else can say is "So do you have a job yet?" I understand that they have to move on and have many other things to concern themselves with, it's just strange to feel as though I've already been erased from the group. I knew it would happen eventually, I just didn't realize it would happen while I was still here. I'm sure almost everyone can relate to this, I've seen a similar thing happen to people in their 5th year as they write their thesis. Maybe I'm taking it too hard and trying to see evidence of the stigma where it's not actually being manifested.

No comments:

Post a Comment