Graduate School and Mental Health

I consider myself to be a mentally resilient person. Failures and setbacks don’t really get to me, and when they do, I bounce back reasonably fast. That said, I have to admit that grad school has significantly tested my limits. In the past four and a half years, I’ve gotten so many rejections from journals and conferences that I’ve seriously doubted my worth. It got so bad that I went to see a therapist. And it now seems like I'm not going to find a job this year, even though I applied to over 70.

That’s right. I applied to more than 70 jobs and none of them want me.

That’s a hard reality to accept. Of course I knew the job market was tough before going into the program, but I still feel incapable and hopeless. To be clear, I tried my hardest. I have never tried so hard at anything in my entire life. Moreover, I did everything I was supposed to do and then some. But it still wasn't enough.

One of the worst parts of this whole thing is that you’re competing against your friends, which creates internal emotional conflict. On the one hand, you want them to succeed, so you’re happy when they publish an article or get an interview. But, on the other hand, you want a job, so it’s simultaneously disheartening to hear their successes. It’s come to the point where I don’t want to look at their CVs, because I’m afraid of what I’ll find.

What's unfortunate is that mental health issues are not talked about enough on an official level. Perhaps it’s because people aren’t that open about their mental struggles or perhaps it’s because philosophy departments just don’t know how to deal with it. I don’t know. But I do know that I don't feel like I can discuss this topic with any professor in the department. I feel like it'd be crossing some professional boundary.

Having said all this, I don’t regret going to grad school. Despite all the hardships that I've endured, I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do with my life. I love philosophy, and I really want to be a professor. So I guess I’ll just keep going, hopefully with my head up.

On Death and Dying

I’ve probably thought more about death in the past year than I ever have in any other, and I’m not really sure why. Part of the reason may be because we discussed death in my intro to philosophy class over the summer. Part of it may be because I'm hoping that thinking about it will make it easier for me to accept that one day I will no longer exist. And part of it may be because I’ve been seeing signs of my friends and family getting older. My mom, for instance, has been experiencing pain in her leg and knee, which has been making it difficult for her to take steps.

It's been 3 years since my grandma's death and I think I'm starting to get used to not having her around. The house continues to feel quiet and empty, though. It's hard to believe that there used to be 7 people living here. I remember the TV used to be on often because we would watch different shows that came on at different times. My great-grandma loved watching The Price is Right. She used to get excited for the contestants: "Oh, is she going to win this car?!"

For as long as I can remember, my great-grandma lived in the bedroom downstairs. I assume it was because all the rooms on the 2nd floor were taken and because she couldn't walk very well. Despite her physical weakness, one day when I was in junior high, she slowly walked up to my room to see a picture of me and my date to a dance. I think I still have that photo somewhere.

Thinking about my grandma and my great-grandma makes me think about how a fall can be the beginning of the end. My great-grandma fell and broke her femur, which rendered her bedridden. It also meant that she had to move into a convalescent home, where she spent the last years of her life. I also remember seeing my grandma fall, but I don’t think there was any single fall that was responsible for her moving into a nursing home. Rather, I think it was one of many that together signaled that she was getting really old.

This is where my great-grandma fell, seen from my perspective as I peered down from my room.

This is where my grandma fell, seen from my perspective after I heard her call out for me. What's scary is that I almost didn't hear her because I had earphones in. I still feel guilty about that.

I went to the cemetery yesterday to visit their graves and, honestly, I don't prefer that method of mourning. It seems artificial to me for some reason. I prefer to mourn by thinking about them and writing down memories. Sometimes before I go to sleep, I think about them while making an odd praying gesture. Not really sure why I do it. Just makes me feel better, I guess.