I feel slightly better than before. Not because anything is going better in lab (it’s really not) but because I took most of the day off on Saturday and the whole day off on Sunday. It’s amazing what a little time away from lab can do to your perspective. Which is why I will be taking an entire week off soon.
In college, I took an intro psych course and in it we learned about cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is essentially the uneasy feeling you have when you hold two opposite ideas in your head. My two opposite feelings are these:
- I want to graduate as soon as possible and to do that I must spend as much time in the lab as possible.
- If I don’t take some significant time off soon I will go bonkers.
Because, see to keep from going crazy, I need to not spend so much time in the lab, but in order to graduate I need to spend lots of time in the lab. Now, I realize going crazy is not conducive to finishing labwork and writing a thesis and graduating. And, after a chat with my psychiatrist, it seems pretty clear that I’m heading for a meltdown.
But, the fact is that I can’t get my work done if I am not physically in lab. Therefore, whenever I spend time outside of the lab, I feel guilty. I think, “I should really be in lab. How am I ever going to graduate if I don’t spend every waking moment in lab?” So, I end up not relaxing so much when I’m not in lab. Which sort of defeats the purpose when you think about it.
So, I was reluctant to plan a week off. I hemmed and hawwed and talked it over with R until I’m sure she was quite sick of hearing about it. I worried what Advisor would say and how I could justify taking time off when both of us are eager for me to finish and get the hell out of here. Finally, I bit the bullet, went in to talk to Advisor and said, “I need to take some time off or I’m going to shoot someone.” To which he said, “Okay.” I must really look like a woman on the edge because in the past he’s said things like, “Are you sure this is a good idea?” Or, “Well, if you really feel you have to.” This time, it was just, “Okay.”
I still feel guilty, though. This is part of the struggle to have a life outside of the lab. On the one hand, I feel that it is healthy to do so. In fact, I know it’s healthy to do so. I used to have a life outside of lab and at that time I was a very mentally healthy person. Then, I started cutting out things so I could spend more time in lab. One by one, I got rid of the things I did that gave me a sense of happiness until all that was left was lab and since everything in lab is going so horribly wrong right now, I have nothing to balance out the bad lab stuff.
On the other hand, we’re not so much encouraged to have a life outside of lab. People don’t come right out and tell you that lab needs to be the be all end all of your existence. But, there is this sense that we need to hide our extracurricular activities from the faculty. Let’s not mention the book club we go to or the knitting group or horseback riding or whatever. Nobody says that you need to be chained to your lab bench, but it’s certainly implied. Why is that? Is that level of dedication what it truly takes to make it in science?
Despite feeling massive amounts of vacation guilt, I have bought my tickets and I’m going to CA to spend some time with my husband. And just before that, I’m going home for the weekend for my nephew’s first birthday. And I will try not to feel guilty while I’m gone.