I’m sympathizing right now with Clancy, who, a year-and-a-half into her doctoral work, asks, “Is this what burnout feels like? I have so much to do and no desire to engage any of it.” Another friend, a graduate student in psychology and counseling, wrote to tell me that four of the five students who entered her program married have since gotten divorced (which couldn’t bode well for their future as counselors, I would think). Invisible Adjunct is hosting a discussion along similar lines, inspired by Scott Smallwood’s article, “Doctor Dropout.” Smallwood writes:
On the first day of graduate school, everyone is still a success. All of the students gunning for Ph.D.’s have lived an academic life of achievement: honor roll, summa cum laude, certificates, scholarships, and parents who praise their intellectual prowess. Yet as many as half of those bright students — many of whom have never tasted failure — will drop out before they can claim their prize.
In some humanities programs, only one of every three entering students goes on to earn a doctorate. No comprehensive national statistics are available, but studies suggest that the attrition rate for Ph.D. programs is 40 percent to 50 percent.
Of the eight candidates who entered my program in August ’98, only two have completed their degrees, two of us are still dissertating, and the remaining four have moved on to other jobs, families, and places unknown. Four out of eight — that makes us statistically average, I guess.
I’m feeling a bit burned out myself at the moment. After finishing my second big writing project Saturday evening, I retreated to the couch, where I spent a day-and-a-half napping and watching the first season of The Office on DVD. The writing itself isn’t what’s so exhausting. Hell, the writing is fun most of the time. It’s the other stuff — the messiness of life stuff — that gets in the way and wears a body down. Things like broken washers and dryers, and day jobs, and accidents at the vet that almost kill the tiny orange cat that you bottle-fed for a month because its mother abandoned it when it was a week old. It’s all a high-wire juggling act.
I’m so tired right now that I can’t even enjoy Kenneth Pollack’s change of heart, or the latest news out of the War College, or the Paul O’Neill and Colin Powell brouhahas. (Okay, so maybe I’m enjoying those a little.) I’m too tired to write up responses to Atom Egoyan’s Ararat (a fascinating train wreck of a film) or Kirby Dick’s and Amy Ziering Kofman’s wonderful documentary, Derrida (which is, of all things, quite charming and funny). I can’t even find the energy to finish up my “2003 Year in Film” post, which I’d hoped to send to Senses of Cinema and which now, two weeks into January, already feels irrelevant.
But I do hope to get back to this blog every once and while. If anyone’s still reading.