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Data Maintenance/Joys of Graduate School

This morning, my hard drive filled up. Nothing crashed, but each program in turn - of course - politely refused to save any data. 0 KB remaining. On reboot, I was back to 800 MB, but it was time to back up, and back up properly, so I could finally safely delete more data. It's a very, very good thing that our copiously large mail-ordered external hard drive arrived only the day before. It comes formatted to FAT32; it's always odd to see my data take up more space in backup than it does on the machine from which it came. We'll be repartitioning so it operates more sensibly.

I've spent the last few hours in the long-overdue process of sorting through unsorted folders of documents. Data storage may be cheap, and there's rarely a reason to delete all copies of a given document or program, but my hard drive is only so large and I don't need copies of everything there. Already, it has breathing space again. Data maintenance is a good level of effort to expend while I'm home ill.

I am delighted that a fair handful of you have very positive graduate school experiences. One of the best things to which blogs* opened my eyes over the past several years was the pervasiveness of graduate student discontent, the flaws and merits of academia, and how it's a very good thing to leave a graduate program which is hurting more than helping. While I was very glad to have read all those posts and discussions along the way, I was beginning to feel as if all the real positives I was hearing about graduate school were coming from public relations efforts, not once-or-current students themselves.

My pool of data is very small, but more of you found glad satisfacton in MAs than in PhDs. I suspect** part of that is because regular coursework allows for greater contact and discussion with colleagues, a chance to have a fairly immersive intellectually-stimulating environment in which to work. PhDs are usually more isolating, although it's also a time when many students try out a different kind of social activity: teaching.

Personally, I've been content with graduate school. I've learned a great deal and gained all sorts of good friends and colleagues whom I look forward to seeing again at our annual reunions academic conferences and while travelling. I've written a book-length manuscript (!) and I've become an independent scholar in the process. I'm still working on my time management skills, but I'd like to think they're better than they used to be.

As for "best days" - I'm not one for labeling my past in that way, for I've yet to discover what excitement and wonderfulness the future holds.

* Especially the much-missed Invisible Adjunct and also Caveat Lector (yarinareth2).
** Actually, this observation partially came from my father, responding to yesterday's comment thread.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 29th, 2006 06:59 pm (UTC)
Re: On drives and free space
I don't treat my system nicely either. I've been running around 15 percent free space for swap files etc., since my web browser use - loads of tabs, open for days - exacerbates memory leak. Burning to CD is so slow too. I was operating with just about enough space until I downloaded the last lot of digiphotos from this past weekend's expeditioning. At that point, I knew the external HD was en route, so lived dangerously for a day or two. Still - that was rather closer than I'd've liked.
Mar. 29th, 2006 07:03 pm (UTC)
You know, looking back on my 'best days' when I was at Trinity. I think it's really all about being in a positive atmosphere in a place where you feel stimulated, good friends, and a job that makes you happy. I was happy as a student there, I was happy in my p/t job, I had friends, I felt good about myself and I was encouraged.
I liked it so much that I thought that if I became a professor I'd be able to find a job that would provide me happiness.
Now I know that in essence, I can get all of that without a phd, I just need to figure out what I can be good at. Move to a place that is interesting and has more opportunity. Make friends, enjoy a social life....that'd be nice. I miss DC, I want to go back.
Mar. 29th, 2006 07:42 pm (UTC)
Lately, I've had a number of occasions to think about what makes an individual's grad school experience a good one, and your earlier post only inspired that further. It's such a tricky thing. In many ways, my graduate *department* was highly fragmented and political, and grad students and their funding were regularly politicized and manipulated to serve factional interests. Yet, although I wasn't immune to this sort of thing (for instance, one of my advisors once got me onto a committee in order to vote for the 'right' choice), my experience was far more positive than that of some of my compatriots.

Why? Most of the credit is due to my supervisor, who encouraged true intellectual innovation and independent work, while actually being available on a regular basis to discuss that work and ensuring that I had plenty of funds to get through my degree. It wasn't perfect - and ultimately, my eclectic experience may actually hurt my employment because I don't fit into the rigid frameworks of my discipline - but that alone was more than enough to compensate for any shortcomings.

But really, while I knew all about my supervisor's scholarship before going there, I had no idea whether he was a good mentor. It was purest chance that things worked out that way for me. Others, I know, were far less fortunate.
Mar. 29th, 2006 08:33 pm (UTC)
Totally off-topic
But did I tell you that SLAC is in an area you seem to visit semi-often and where you recently had a great meal at a family event??
Mar. 29th, 2006 08:47 pm (UTC)
Re: Totally off-topic
A pricy but pleasant area to live in! I know several people currently considering moving there. Obviously, they're all only doing so for my convenience. ;)
Mar. 29th, 2006 09:34 pm (UTC)
Re: Totally off-topic
Fortunately, I'll be a full hour from major non-central airport. So I can afford to live on what they're paying me, and still have access to the cool.
Mar. 29th, 2006 11:42 pm (UTC)
You know what I kind of don't understand? And I'm not slamming anyone here, this is something I've never gotten. Grad school is so difficult in a number of ways: you have no money, which sucks, and that means you have to put off a number of things that your peers don't, if you're middle-class (like, my non-grad-student friends are almost done paying off their student loans, and I haven't started, they're starting to buy houses and have kids, and I can't), and you have no status in the world at large, etc. If I didn't love it, if I weren't really happy, I couldn't stand it. If so many grad students are miserable, where do they find the motivation to continue? I think of myself as reasonably self-directed, but unhappiness could really quash that for me. So...what is it that keeps those who are unhappy going?
Mar. 30th, 2006 02:11 am (UTC)
They have been convinced that they have no other options? They are in love with the idea of a life of the mind, rather than picking up on the fact that academia is one of the hardest, most grinding jobs there can be (despite the rewards)? They are too stubborn to admit they're wrong? There could be lots of reasons, but I don't get it either. Even when I was living a decidedly non-academic life (i.e., being a working spouse, stepmother of troubled teen, etc., and supposedly working on my dissertation), what got me through that was the idea that I was still in grad school. I hadn't quite left. There's a huge emotional attachment to the idea of being an academic, if that's been the most nurturing environment for most of your life -- and if you've reached grad school, you really have spent the majority of your life in school. I was lucky (cue moans from those who've heard this) -- I not only found out that I was really good at other things (all of which were teaching-related, but you make a hell of a lot more money when it's in high-tech and called 'training'), and didn't have to be an academic. It's nice knowing that a choice was made. I got my act together (sort of) and came back. Maybe the people who are miserable and don't leave are the ones who just aren't able to choose to leave a bad grad school relationship anymore than they could leave a bad marriage.
Mar. 30th, 2006 02:12 am (UTC)
Er ... I suppose I should admit it took me at least five years to leave a marriage I knew was bad, and I never felt that way about grad school ...
Mar. 30th, 2006 02:30 am (UTC)
That makes sense. Both leaving a marriage and leaving graduate school involve giving up not only a way of life, what you're doing now, but they also involve giving up a vision of one's future in exchange for uncertainty. So I suppose, both ways, you have to get to the point where you are so very unhappy that you'd rather be unsure of your future, which, for those of us who like plans, can be difficult.
Mar. 30th, 2006 11:36 am (UTC)
Hope you get better soon. A's been ill this week as well. C. managed to be ill for about 1&1/2 days and now seems to have bounced back.

Mar. 30th, 2006 11:38 am (UTC)
Thank you. I have every intention of being better by weekend! As colds go, this one's pretty minor, but it has taken away most of my energy.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )