Quite often nowadays I found myself more or less bad tempered and depressed due to academical matters. Or rather, at every important deadline or exam this anxiety will come prowling. And I don’t like it, because those kind of moods are not part of my normal character. So, what is the source of this?
Basically, it goes like this. I get a dead-line for whatever project. In the beginning I feel a certain optimism – maybe I can do something new or research related? Maybe I can be really good at it? But the deadline is then still far away and I don’t really do any work worth mentioning. Then, at some point, I start the work and will of course immediately be challenged by the problems (unfortunately I happen to study in a technical university). And then things goes bad. I find myself staring at code/formulas without understanding one thing. I find myself reading through pages and pages without really gaining any information. I try to solve a certain problem but gets stuck at basic math questions, irritating compiler errors or similar.
And then I feel stupid. And then my motivation drops. Suddenly are my plans of being a top researcher crushed into laboratory dust. I start avoiding doing any work. I find other things to occupy myself with, like sorting the desktop, taking photographs of leaves or pressing the Stumbleupon button ten times in a row. Heck, I even start writing in my blog on topic such as ‘Academical anxiety’. My creativity gets boosted and I start thinking about that novel I never really finished. But at the same time comes the pressure. I promised myself I would do this. I promised to be in the lab for 8 hours today, and I didn’t even go there. I’m not only stupid, I’m also disorganized and incapabale of keeping promises (to myself).
This pattern is all too familiar, and I have a distinct feeling that it is getting worse and worse. I can not remember the last time I handed in a project, report or exam with which I felt I had done a thorough and complete effort. All are a result of stress and a distinct lack of understanding the details – I’m more often relying on my skills in seeming smart than actually being smart (which have saved me many, many times). What is the source of this and to what extent will it affect me?
As I see it, there are two alternatives. Either I’m studying the wrong things, or it’s something flawed with my basic motivation of doing anything important at all. If the latter is the case, I sure have a reason to actually be depressed. Unfortunately, I see no easy answer to this. I have examples of me enjoying technical projects to a great extent without feeling especially unintelligent but in the same time I have examples of non-technical projects failuring of extreme lack of motivation and a sense of ‘huh?’ (rather than a sense of ‘ahaa’).
Apparent is that without a major change in my personality I will not be able to cope with a future in theoretical academics – that is, any academical research. I might have the ability to actually understand what I’m doing, but I would have to work under extreme mental stress. It’s sadly not a realistic option. And why is it sad? Because I’ve always envisioned myself as academic. I’ve always thought about doing reasearch. I’ve always dreamed about the possibility to be famous or well-paid through research.
I don’t really want to realize this. As I mentioned – sometimes I still feel like a scientist. Sometimes I identify with all those bright guys and girls that surround me at the university. However, in my opinion ability to understand is not the most important factor in being a academically successful person – motivation is more important. And, as my parents have pointed out many times in my life, I seem to lack a lot of that motivation. I talk about being rich, others work their asses of to actually become rich. Am I the one who only wants but never gets? (and don’t interpret that too freely, my friends…;) )
Having to realize that I’m not as smart as I’ve always wanted to be (or, if I’m that smart I can’t use it well enough) is painful. And the next question immediately springs to mind – what will I do instead? What am I actually good at? I don’t know – and would I get that same question in a job interview today I would have problems. Either I would have to lie extensively or I would have to admit I have no clue why they should hire me other than to financially support me (which usually doesn’t work so well…).
Yes, I’m in a low mood right now and that of course makes me describe things gloomier than they have to be. But I’m sure that these problems I’ve been describing won’t just go away with my bad mood – they will stay there and trigger at every time I’m forced to actually do something in school. It’s at times like this I wish I would have inherited some of that lutherian workaholism that my parents has… because currently my most appealing career path is winning on a lottery and staying unemployed – and I’ve never had good luck in lotteries…