14 February 2012

I Want a Divorce! or, how doing a PhD is like a (bad) relationship*

I sit here, on St. Valentine's Abomination ... I mean, Day, and realize that my date is actually my dissertation.  And I'm not even writing it.  I'm revising it, which is far, far more painful.   Thus, I reflect on the fact that doing a PhD is very much like being in a bad relationship.

Sure, it starts of all wondrous and shiny.  You spy a lovely academic field across the room and introduce yourself.... "Oh, Ethnomusicology... let us go off and make sweet music together."

And at the beginning, it is magical.  Getting to know all about Ethnomusicology, "There's stuff other than the music?  Amazing!"  And with Ethnomusicology on your arm, you are the envy of all your friends, stuck in offices working in finance, law, and medicine.  They covet your life, "You get to listen to music all day!  Music is awesome!"  Those other professions never even tempt you . . . you only have eyes for your beloved Ethnomusicology.

As the relationship gets deeper, you enjoy Ethnomusicology even more.  You bask in the sensual pleasures of new musics from different lands that offers more than just a one-night-stand with a strange academic field might offer.  True love is much more satisfying than mere ear-candy.

And then the relationship becomes more routine, hearing the same old songs, dancing the same old moves - after all, you need to settle down and pick a specialty eventually.  You see your friends and their jobs that pay them "money" and which buys them things like "cars" and "houses."**  You wonder what it might be like with those other jobs, if the novelty of their pleasures could be as sweet.  But you tell yourself that mere money and stuff can't match the satisfaction you get from your relationship with Ethnomusicology.  Those moments of true satisfaction can't be replaced.

But four, five, or even six years down the road, the relationship has turned sour.  You can't get Ethnomusicology's nagging voice out of your head. "THIS WRITING IS CRAP!  WRITE ANOTHER DRAFT!"  You don't go out anymore, you're chained to your former beloved.  You sit at your desk, wishing you could be free of the Annie Wilkes that you freely chose.  Ethnomusicology's touch has withered, and the pleasures are only occasional and routine.  There are days that you just can't stand to look at Ethnomusicology, let alone touch it.  You crave for a job crunching numbers in some financial tower downtown, wearing a suit every day, if only the pain would end, and a paycheque will have a couple of extra zeros in it.

Finally, you realize that the only way to ever be free again is to end it.  Hours and hours of paper work go into making sure that Ethnomusicology will never ever have such a hold on you again.  You examine the documents for loopholes and make sure that every i is dotted and t is crossed.  Then, you finally survive your cross-examination, submit your reams of evidence, and when it is over, you receive your get*** and are free from Ethnomusicology's evil hold, once and for all.

Until you try to write your book.


* Note to academics:  My actual dissertation title is far shorter than the title of this blog.

** Or "condos" if you live in Toronto.

*** -a get is a Jewish divorce document.

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