It’s been over two months since we last posted. Perhaps you thought that we had disappeared, but we’re still here and still passionate about helping YOU get through your PhD in a way that is physically, mentally, and emotionally beneficial for you.
One thing humanities PhD students know we’ll is that, if you don’t find time to take a break then you will have a breakdown.
In interviewing PhD students about their experience I was commonly told that folx would push themselves through the semester focusing on teaching with grand plans to write at their next break. However, break would roll around and they would spend it exhausted, sick, or both. This was frequently accompanied by feelings of guilt around the “lost” productivity.
Almost unanimously, the graduate students I interviewed believed that a certain measure of adrenaline kept them going during the semester and the minute they were on break their bodies crashed.
You learn to take breaks or you breakdown.
Recently, someone asked me about work-life balance. As we’ve talked about before, balance is an individual process, which means there is no work-life balance practice that will work for everyone. However, I will share my work-life balance philosophy with you:
There will always be people willing to give you more work. No one will ever give you more life.
This is why it is essential to prioritize your life over work.
What makes this particularly difficult for many of us who work in higher ed is that our work is an expression of what we are passionate about in life.
I wrote a dissertation on how the concept of virginity is crucial to the patriarchal nation-state because of my experiences with the sexual control of women in Christian Nationalist churches. I recently met someone who was drawn to academic advising, in part, as a way to help other students avoid the mistakes he made. One of my clients is doing an amazing black feminist analysis of digital activism because of how vital the internet was to her own identity formation as a black girl and black woman.
Without exaggeration I can tell you that everyone I personally know who has completed a PhD has done so on a subject that is vital to their identity. It may not always be obvious. I know a Revolutionary War scholar whose topic doesn’t seem particularly related to who he is as a person until you realize that a love for the history of the American Revolution was something he and his dad shared growing up.
This deep connection to our topic of study may seem obvious–after all, you can’t study something so deeply for, on average, seven years without passion for it whether that passion takes the form of love or hate.
What this means in practice, though, is that beyond #NeoLiberalCapitalismProblems, which demand we all feel like we need to work all the time to be good people, academics often want to work on their topics because it feels like a vital, creative expression of our own existence. Together, these forces can prevent us from taking breaks, even though all the good science says that we desperately need them in order to avoid a physical, mental, or emotional breakdown.
All of that is to say, taking a two month break from this site wasn’t something I planned on doing, but I needed a break after a very eventful 2018. The thing is, I didn’t know I needed a break until I found myself in it. In true grad student fashion, I was in denial that I needed a break until I had a little breakdown. After that, I spent a lot of time feeling guilty about needing a break. Finally, I just leaned into that sh*t and owned up the break.
I missed y’all terribly and I’m so glad to be back. We have some exciting stuff planned for the rest of 2019 but the most important message for today is this: We take breaks so we don’t breakdown.