A Day in the Life

FlightyUndergrad has a habit of comparing her hard, pre-med, course-laden undergrad life with my easy, course-free grad student life. She has said such gems as: "Well, at least you don't have to study" and "You just don't understand. My parent's check is late. You have a stipend" and, my favorite, "Since you're going to be here anyhow could you do X,Y, and Z for me. I've got ::insert social activity here:: tonight."

I'm not quite sure why this annoys me so much. She has no bearing on my reputation or standing with Advisor. Her comments are ignorant and sometimes veer towards less than kind, but, as she's only here for a few hours a day a few days a week, the comments shouldn't matter that much.

However, I do feel the need to educate her and relieve her of this ignorance. Instead of yelling at her, I've patiently explained that "While I don't take classes, I still have to "study." I take home reading and am expected to keep up with the literature. Additionally, I don't work the prescribed 3-hours-in-lab-per-credit-hour-I'm-registered-for, but, in fact, I work many more hours than that." Her response to this was (and I'm paraphrasing here), "but that's a choice; it's not required." Indeed. At the time I just dropped it (I had given it a good faith effort and yelling was seeming the more appealing option at that time), but I've been thinking about what she said. A choice?

It was my choice to go to graduate school (as it's her choice to aim for medical school), but is what goes along with grad school really a choice? Granted I always have a choice to do them or quit, but those aren't exactly a vast array of options are they? Also, I don't think I knew what I was getting myself into when I started graduate school. I'm not just talking about the long hours or the egos that (at times) seem rampant in academia. It's the blow that grad school deals to the self-esteem.

So much of my self-esteem is tied up in the experiments, the data, the results and when those don't work out it can be crushing. That doesn't even count the inevitable learning curve. Lately my experience in grad school has involved me making mistakes and learning how to fix them. Mistakes that I don't think other people would make-- some simple and some not. These mistakes have aided me in learning about experimental planning, but I'm not generating data as fast as I want (need?). Each mistake prolongs the time until I'll get results and, hence, the cycle continues. (I think the only way I'll survive this process is to let go of the mistakes, be more careful in the future, and remind myself I can not be the only person in the world to go through a period like this. At least I'm hoping that last part is true.)

Is it really a choice? When my choice is to either (A) fix my mistake, spend long hours in the lab, develop a thicker skin, triumph over my "stupidity," and eventually get results or (B) leave?