It’s all fun and games until…
Explaining the concept of “I don’t have free time” to homeboy who’s been trying to get you to go for drinks for weeks becomes too complicated for everyday English words. Let’s be clear, stating that you don’t have free time can easily come across as stuck up or highly uninterested (and sometimes you’re one or both and that’s totally fine). But it’s really a shorthand way of saying “I have to make time for everything I do” so it’s then up to that person to be willing to show you that they are worth making time for. Does this sound like too? Then my dear, they simply cannot handle you right now. Sometimes people just have to be okay with that, and you have to be okay with that too.
Let’s say for example I have to write a literature review. A lit review is not simply a paper. It’s a document full of synthesis and careful connecting of dots. So if I have a lit review due in 2 weeks and I tell you I barely started, I’m literally about to digest a whole library, scribble out mountains of pages of notes, write, rewrite, and rewrite again. By the time it’s all said and done I will have put in enough work for a year’s worth of blog posts, sitting all in one document. There are only 24 hours in a day. Add to that my job, daily responsibilities, social contact I can’t escape, class, and your half assed text attempts to get me to “chill” laced with “wyd” texts every other message. Yea, still writing this paper like I been doing 3 hours ago. Nothing has changed I promise.
Now as for navigating a relationship. You can’t do a PhD with a significant other who is not also signing up for the gig. I don’t mean they’re getting their own PhD, I mean signing up to do yours with you. You need to really explain to this person that this is nothing like all-nighters turned into A’s in undergrad. Either keep it cute and casual or make sure you’ve found you a crazy person who enjoys sharing stress. There is actually no in between. Anything else will complicate life all unnecessarily. Being questioned about why you’re just now on your way home at 2am after a couple hours of no communication will get real old, real fast. It’s heavy to say that you shouldn’t upgrade status of a relationship to being serious on account of your educational pursuits, but you low key really shouldn’t. That person is going to have to potentially sign up for you crying about feelings of inadequacy, a bad grade, or maybe a harsh critique that you internalize as a reflection of your whole life. Being told “it’s not that serious” or (my personal favorite) “you’ll be ite” is just not going to be acceptable. And if you’re anything like me and you like your person to be a little rough around the edges, you might have some extra explaining to do about what it is you do. I will say though that in my experience the roughest and toughest of people I’ve dated most easily translate my grind to their own. There’s a mutual appreciation for busting ass that speaks a universal language and that is ultimately what is needed to make these things work. You need that understanding of what you do regardless of them actually being a part of that world or not.
A man with kids, a crazy mother of said kids, who works all of the hours of the day with exception of eating and sleeping, can potentially be a better candidate for your side than homeboy who went to work for a Fortune 500 company straight out of undergrad who works 9-5 Mon – Fri and has no financial obligations outside of himself.
Navigating the academy is hard, but navigating it with baggage is even harder.