For whatever reason, I woke up really depressed and exhausted today – pretty much for no reason, I think.
I checked my schedule on my Treo – today marks 19 years since my dissertation defense.
I remember being really depressed throughout writing my dissertation thinking, “is this all I have to show for this many years of public support for my training?”
My defense was on a Monday so I spent most of Sunday practicing my seminar in the room where I’d give it – it sucked so badly that I couldn’t even get through it once.
When the time came, it was the most incoherent performance I had ever given or ever would.
I was a blithering idiot during my oral exam. There was a great deal of laughter in the room as I stood outside in the hall.
How in the hell did they give me a Ph.D.?
Several of my friends, and those who were not exactly friends, said it was the best talk I ever gave.
One of my committee members took his turn during the questioning to note this was one of the clearest dissertations he had read in awhile. I picked him specifically because he was outside of my field but was a scientist who I respected greatly and continue to admire.
I was the first graduate student of my mentor – he was promoted with tenure six months later.
Funny, the difference in my perception and reality.
It still wasn’t great – I only got two papers out of it. One was in a pretty decent journal, although not Cell, Nature, or Science. I ended up with a few postdoc offers, several in great institutions that were also great places to live. Somehow I got a faculty position. Somehow I mentored a few folks to do the same.
I’m still feeling pretty miserable today, still not really knowing why, and I really didn’t celebrate or anything.
Instead, thinking about today 19 years ago reminded me how much anguish and self-doubt comes with doing a Ph.D.
It also reminded me how one’s view of oneself is not always how others see you.
How was it for you?