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should I continue pushing for a career?
5 Replies
Martian - April 29

Hi all,
Long story before I get to question but please hang in there as I desperately need some advice!
I've always been a driven & active person, I exhaust myself just thinking about how many sports& activities I used to do. Then fibre hit at 17, it took me awhile to recognise the problem, I got through my A levels somehow, blaming my exhaustion & disinterest on a bereavement & recurring infections. Ive always thrown myself into work, so got a summer job before university. I made 3 weeks of uni before I hit rock bottom with a whole body infection that left me practically comatose. I had to defer from missing too much work (physics degree do intense from beginning). I had tests galore back home, don't remember much from October to February but slowly came back to life. Built up to 'helping' at my old 6th form couple times a week just to see other people to mum&dad. My doctor was great, really understood me as conscientious (worrier) & driven,& always wanted to go to uni. I got back to uni a year later, & somehow worked my way through a 4yr Masters. flare-ups coincided with exams (stress) but with the generous holidays for complete rest, beta blocker doses getting stronger each year &a supportive boyfriend I got my First class degree & mum&dad got to see me graduate.
I NOW see the point my doctor tried to make at this point - "congratulations...now that will do" but for some reason I tried to continue to follow my life plan (recorded for posterity from when I was 5yrs old) of getting a PhD. I thought I was making all the sensible allowances someone with fibre should; staying at same uni, working with supervisor from my undergrad to limit stress of change. I seemed to thinly that if I acted as if I was fine, I would miraculously be ok. That hasn't happened (surprise!) & I've run myself completely into the ground with travel to international conferences &working into evenings& weekends to catch up on the hours brain fog made me less productive. The past few months I've set myself targets, if I just meet this deadline, just got through this conference....but I always forgot what my reward was & made the next target.
I'm not enjoying my work, I live to work. I work& then I try to recover from work to work some more. I have no social life, if I didn't live with my boyfriend I wouldnt eat,have clean clothes or get through day (he is also doing PhD at same uni).
Reading this through I've biased it slightly to the answer in looking for but the question at the end of this essay is:
Should I defer my PhD for 6months or a year in order to finish it or just quit as I.can't see me ever lasting in this high stressed career like i wanted? My parents would be so disappointed that there little girl won't make it to NASA but I spend every night crying& am only still there for fear of letting people down for selfish reasons.
Can anyone help me make the best decision for me as I keep going round in circles but have realised that without change Im likely to loose everything whit further down the line.
Sorry for the length but I have no one to talk to.
Cheers xxx

 

January - April 29

Martian - I want to congratulate you on everything you have achieved! Take credit! Please don't burn yourself out. If you have this disease (until we find a cure!) you will have to pace yourself, especially as you get older. As you have intelligence and talent, I hope you will find a way to keep using it. If you lose the health you have left, where will you be?

Please get some counseling to get a deeper clarification of what your true values are. When you are lying on your death bed, what are the things you will look back on with the most pleasure? What will give you the most comfort? What are you doing for YOURSELF? What are you LIVING FOR? Is it money, fame, family, respect, love… or what? These are deep, soul-searching questions and the answers are different for each of us.

For example, you say you don't want to let others down - have you checked to see if this is the reality, or are you one of those people who can never feel good no matter HOW much they accomplish? (That might be a self worth issue.) You say you're not enjoying your work - is this the same work you will be doing with your PhD? Do you want a high stress life with work you don't like? Do you want to discover or invent something new? Do you want time to smell the roses and enjoy other people? Have a family? Everything in life is a trade off. Nobody gets to have everything - and with fibro, you will have to use your energy wisely. So choose whatever you want the most, but do it with your eyes open, and thoughtfully. Live the life YOU want to live.

I know that it is possible to work yourself into the ground, to the point you are unable to function anymore. I also know that, as hard as you work at a job - and as important as you may be for a while - eventually, you will retire, others will take over and your name will be forgotten. Imagine you are at the end of your life looking back - what life story would make you the happiest?

Here is a tiny quote from T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets, a long poem which is full of wisdom on how to live.

O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark,
The vacant interstellar spaces, the vacant into the vacant,
The captains, merchant bankers, eminent men of letters,
The generous patrons of art, the statesmen and the rulers,
Distinguished civil servants, chairmen of many committees,
Industrial lords and petty contractors, all go into the dark,
And dark the Sun and Moon, and the Almanach de Gotha
And the Stock Exchange Gazette, the Directory of Directors,
And cold the sense and lost the motive of action.
And we all go with them, into the silent funeral,
Nobody's funeral, for there is no one to bury.
I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God.


In other words… listen to your soul (even if it takes some extra time) to find out what's really important…. best of luck to you. You sound like you have so much to offer. Love yourself.

 

lucky13 - May 1

I am working toward my 4 yr degree. I am a mother to 4 kids, I work full time, I go to school and I have Fibro. I don't know how I do it, but I can't afford to pay back my student loans just yet so I have to stay in school at least part time.
If it weren't for my kids, there are a lot of days I'd never get out of bed, but my responsibilities drive me forward on some of my worst days.
I will finally graduate in May 2012, then I will take the summer off and start my Masters program in the fall and plan on my PhD after that.

I really think it also depends on how close you are to your PhD, if it's a few classes, don't quit, but if you have only started, I'm sure no one will be disappointed in you if your childhood plan has changed.
Also, have you thought about teaching, being a college professor, you may not like the career path you chose, but with a PhD (or Masters at many schools) you could teach.
My degree is in Corrections and I will not work in that field ( I chose it because it was offered 100% online at our states best criminal justice school and with 4 kids and work I can only handle online course work)
So my goal is to teach online from my school when I graduate. That way on my bad days I don't have to face the public if I wish not.

Good luck, and like someone else said, look inside yourself to see what YOU want, don't base your decision on what everyone else wants.

 

vavaughn - May 2

I have to echo Lucky's last sentence, don't base your decision on what everyone else wants or ANYONE for that matter! You need to base your decision on what is best for you.

Fibro definitely takes a lot from you. You have to ask yourself if you finish your PhD, will you even have enough energy to move into your desired career if you push yourself this hard now.

I will tell you, I am a very driven person. I worked full-time, had a part-time job and went to school full-time at night to get my BBA. I went into my career directly from University. After I started my career, I had many goals set for my career. My ultimate goal was to become Vice President within my current company by the time I was 40. I am currently 33 and a Senior Manager. I would have had to work 60+ hours a week to get where I wanted to be.

Then...I was diagnosed with Fibro and pain and fatigue became a very large part of my life. For awhile I did not let it slow me down. I would smile at work through the pain and work on my laptop from bed. Due to demands of my job, I had no other life. I would cry about the way I felt and other than work spent just about every other hour in bed. For some time I was determined that I was still going to stick to my career goals!

Soon, I wasn't even able to keep up with the break-neck pace of work. I started to look at what was important to me. Because I couldn't keep up, I couldn't make my career my life any longer. To sum it up, I wanted there to be more to my life than my career and bed. I wanted to spend time with my family, I wanted to do things with other people and most importantly I wanted to spend time not at work and out of bed!

Now, I work full-time as a Senior Manager and don't see myself advancing anytime soon. But I also have a wonderful boyfriend and 2 step-sons that I am able to spend time with and enjoy!

The purpose of my story wasn't to make this post about me but was to hopefully help you see that there will be a trade-off for your decisions. However, it is about making yourself happy! If getting your PhD makes you happier than anything else, then you may choose to go to school and study and spend any other hours in bed. If you want to spend some time with your boyfriend and be able to stay out of bed a little more, you may decide to put your PhD on hold.

The bottom line is no one can decide what means the most to YOU. You have to take care of yourself! It sounds like you are very lucky to have a caring and supportive boyfriend. As for anyone else that wouldn't understand you not getting your PhD, they have never had to walk a mile in your shoes!

I'm sorry this is so long! Your post very much made me think of myself and some very hard decisions I had to make. I was hoping you would find some comfort in knowing you are not alone! I wish you the best of luck in whatever you decide and don't let anyone judge you for whatever that may be!

 

Martian - May 2

Hi all.
Thank you so much for giving me your opinions and your own experiences. It's really helped me see that I'm not the only one out there to have had to make this decision.
I've sat down with my boyfriend & we've discussed everything & decided that a year out is the best option.
It's not the fact that I can't cope with or mentally do the work but actually its the normal life bit that I've lost the ability to cope with!
I'm far enough into my PhD that its worth just pausing my studies, taking a year to restructure some actual living into daily life & then in a years time attempt to fit work back in to give me a chance of completing it.
I have other less stressful career options available to me (something is failed to realise before) so I can finally see that it doesn't have to be as life altering a decision as it feels at the moment.
I feel like a weight has been lifted with the fact that other people understand what I am feeling and have been in similar positions. I was so worried I was overeacting or somehow weaker than everyone else. I cant thank you all enough for your advice & guidance.
I am going to make decisions based on what's best for me for a while& hopefully that way it will turn out being the best decision for everyone!
Wishing you all many more good days than bad.
Cheers xxx

 

vavaughn - May 3

Martian, Congratulations on making the decision that is best for you! Enjoy your year! I wish you as many painfree and alert days as possible in that year!

 

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