Friday, March 27, 2009

chasing mirages

My life lately has been alternating between making progress on my thesis, or and enjoying a more active social life than had been normal just a few months ago. I have a partner who recently completed his degree and, as a result, has come out of his self-imposed near-exile state that he maintained while he was still studying. From a life which involved uni work, computer games, and a reflexive “no” to any suggestions of social outings he is now suggesting social outings on a regular basis, and playing far, far fewer computer games than had been his norm. Now I’m the one who winds up staying home to work on my thesis while he goes out and spends time with our friends. Some days this is very effective and I accomplish enough to be happy I did. Other days I wish I had gone, and don’t manage to accomplish as much as I would have liked, and still other days I go along, enjoy myself, and accept that I’ve just added that much more time to the target completion date.
Ah, the target completion-date. Pretty much everyone I know asks me “when will you be finished?” How I wish I knew! Some days it feels like I’m chasing a mirage—I think about what has to be done to complete a chapter or a section; list them out A, B, and C tasks yet to be done and I can move on to the next part. But then, once I’ve done task A I discover that I also need to do D before that section will be complete, and once I’ve done B I find that E and F need to be added to the list. It is only when I stop and look at what has been done I feel like I’ve made any progress—the pile behind me is growing, but so is the pile yet to be done.
In some ways I’m not concerned and feel like I’ve plenty of time available. I’ve received a sufficient number of “sorry, we aren’t hiring after all due to budget cuts” and “sorry, we had so many truly qualified applicants that it was difficult to make a decision, but we’ve hired someone else” letters that I am pretty certain that I don’t need to stress about finishing on time to have the degree complete so that I can start a job in a teaching position in the northern hemisphere fall semester this year—sure there are a few universities which haven’t yet gotten back to me, but since they haven’t asked for a phone interview yet, I’m not holding my breath on them. This gives me extra time to complete my degree and get papers written for publication before next year’s round of academic hiring, with no stress about being “on time” and that is a good thing.
However, there are still post-doc positions, which seem to be advertised at random intervals. I just saw one today for a position in Europe which sounds like it could be fun. Alas, they want someone by 1 June—if I apply for this one, it would be back to the “hurry up—how fast can you finish?” approach. Ah the joys of a scholar’s life—shall I take my time and work in a low-stress environment and miss out on potential opportunities in the short term, or hurry up so that I can chase every interesting opportunity which comes along and hope that the haste doesn’t cause me to do a poor job?

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