Piecing Together the Puzzle

Finding time for your research around your class, teaching, and work schedules may seem daunting by itself – but what about fitting your schooling and research into your long term plan, applying for jobs, figuring out a place to live, and finally starting your career?  It can all be overwhelming – but like a puzzle, once you find the corners, build the edges, and sort the pieces, everything starts to fall into place and the middle begins to fill in.


Sometimes getting through school, job applications, moving, etc. can feel like one big puzzle. Photo by Ren-Jay S.

So don’t despair – there is hope!  No matter how despondent you may feel at times, hold the line and keep plugging along, because you will piece your puzzle together and reach your goals.

One of the running jokes amongst my office mates is that getting a Ph.D. is just as much about careful persistence and bull-headed stubbornness as it is about intellect, critical thinking, and research.  As whimsical and jovial as that notion is, there is probably a sliver of truth to it, because we all get down and discouraged at some point (usually multiple points) before we reach our goals.  Being able to handle your discouragement and channel it towards productivity and positive energy is a critical skill to develop as you work your way through school.  That may come in many forms that are unique to each individual.  Maybe you go for a long hike, have a glass of wine with your friends, or curl up on the couch with some popcorn, your dog, and a rom-com.  Everyone deals with stress and disappointment differently, but what successful people seem to have in common is that they are able to take negative thoughts and energy and transform them into positive energy that is motivating, productive, and provocative.

My suggestion is to take some time to reflect on yourself, how you handle stress and discouragement, and think about ways that you might improve how you deal with these things.  I find that when I take time to reflect on how I manage stress and bumps in the road, even if I can’t come up with a better strategy to deal with these things, somehow I find myself feeling more positive and whatever I happen to be stressed about at the time isn’t such a big deal anymore.  Then usually at the most fortuitous times, I will devise a more effective or efficient strategy to manage my stress.  Ain’t that a kick in the head?