Grad school was actually awful

So I officially, once and for all, finally finished grad school last Friday evening after a longer-than-intended leave of absence. I got a shitty grade on my thesis and a chewing out from my advisor because I have done much better work. But the thing is I almost didn’t finish at all because… erg. Reasons. First and foremost being that it’s the second part of a dual degree and I got the other one a long time ago, and that one’s actually a lot more important in terms of getting a job here. In the words of Peter from Office Space, “it’s not that I’m lazy, it’s just that I don’t care.”

I would really like to think that finishing the second one was a testament to my tenacity and ability to come back from almost certain failure. At least that’s what I’ll write on my LinkedIn page. But more likely finishing the damn thing was a result of my utter inability to let things go, long after I probably should. That, mixed in with some vanity and residual Teacher Pleasing tendencies in me that just won’t go away, is what drove me to finish.

I thought it would be a weight off. Maybe if I’d done better work and gotten a better grade it would have been. But I didn’t anticipate it being more like the dissipating of a dark brain miasma I hadn’t even known was there for the past 3 years. Any time I had a rough or tedious day at work, I’d reminisce about the “glory days” of my times with my classmates. I’d wonder if I had made a mistake in coming to shuffle paper and chirp in the Land of Karoshi when I could have stayed in Germany where I’d almost certainly be engineering things and nodding sagely at the IPCC before jetting off to enjoy my 2-month summer vacation in the South of France. Before finishing my thesis, I’d remember my classmates and the potluck dinners, the 2.50 Euro Weizen, the snowball fights, the Christmas markets, and filter out the drama, our whole “dysfunctional incestuous family” dynamic, the white barracks-like buildings, the 4PM winter sunset, and the endless parade of presentations and poverty and pressure and envy…

It wasn’t until after finishing the thesis that I realized grad school was actually awful.

Don’t get me wrong, I still wouldn’t trade it and knowing those people for anything. I would take the bad along with the good all over again. And my second reader actually liked my thesis and wants to implement it, so maybe it’s not such a piece of shit after all. But more than anything, at least I can get on with my life.



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