Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Is this normal?


I am hesitant to be blunt because I am not sure who my readers are, but I think my question "is this normal?" will alleviate any concerns from those who may be my superiors in the academic world... so here goes:

I just left a class where I spent most of the time thinking, "Seriously, people spend their time thinking about this stuff... why does this matter and who cares? Can't people just live their lives and figure these things out along the way." This may be because I have no background in psychology, but I feel the same way when I interact with my PhD peers... it appears that all that matters is school and learning and absoring knowledge... for some reason I am not that motivated... maybe not a good place to be when I am on track to spend the next 3-8 years trecking towards my title of "Dr."

I walked across campus thinking: maybe I should study something else, maybe this is just the first of the semester freak out, maybe I am experiencing something real about my calling in the world, what if I chose the wrong thing to pursue, what if I fail misserably, what if I just run away as fast as I can, do other people feel the same way I do?

On the positve side I feel like I am smart and should be able to accomplish a PhD. I was chosen by a group of people to be here with an assistantship because they believe in me. But, then why do I feel so much like I want to scream?

I get this lump in my chest (I think its anxiety)... it is right at the top of my rib cage in the very center... I have had this feeling before and I don't like it. It makes it difficult to breath, to eat, to relax, to focus, I just want to alleviate it. My hope is that this post will provide a bit of catharsis... and as we speak the lump is subsiding, just a bit...

Maybe I will do some coloring tonight, that usually helps. Well, off to Econometric Statistics...


Matt said...

You are doing great babe. Always remember that if the Phd thing does not work out then we can always quit and become hippies that drive up and down the Pacific Coast Highway. I am ready.

-The future Dr. and Mr. Rowe

Shannon Smith said...

I was unaware that Matt knew the Internet contained sites other than packpride and espn.

My first reaction..
Bail. Screw it. Drop out of the program. You don't need some piece of paper or a title to tell you who you are. Right Jason, we don't need to go to school to qualify our role in life.

My second thought...
At least you are going for it. Whatever it may be. I sit around thinking about what I would like to do with my life without actually doing anything about it.

Final thought...
Why are you pursuing the PhD? Just because you are smart enough to do it? Just because some group of people chose you? Is this PhD pursuit bringing you into shalom with your creator?

Again... Matt, good luck.
(That was mainly for Patrick to have something to comment on. He likes calling me names.)

Patrick said...

I think it's perfectly normal. I had some similar thoughts in MBA school. In my opinion (whatever that's worth!) you are wired for action and tangible service, which are great and admirable characteristics. Sometimes in the midst of the education process it's tough for those things to flesh themselves out and it's frustrating. Especially when you're a person who sees needs and attacks/meets them. I'd say give it a little time and see if it settles out and you feel better. If it doesn't, you're young so pursue something else!

Two amazing bits of career advice I got from some older men:
1. Find what you're passionate about and then figure out how to get paid for it.
2. Never pursue a career or job based on money or status. Rather pursue them based on your passion to do them.

Sorry for the long post! I'm confident you'll work this out. If you need an outlet, just go smack Matt around a bit. He's a giver so he'll take it!

Patrick said...

My thoughts on Shannon's thoughts.
1. Keep in mind I'm colored by my career choices but a piece of paper IS important if you want to teach or do something in academia. No it doesn't define you, but in the world we live in it gives a bit of credibility. That being said don't do it just for that instead do it b/c it's the place where your gifts meet your passions. Unfortunately we do live in a fallen world and while we don't necessarily have to follow its rules we do need to be aware of them and put ourselves in positions to change them.
2. I concur. I admire the fact that Traci Rowe doesn't gloss over her thoughts about life, but does something about them. It's a great characteristic.
3. Good questions to ask. I don't use fancy words but is this pursuit something that makes you more like Christ and able/apt to serve Him? Does it position you to do such later?

traci said...

thank you for the insights guys! I do appreciate it. My husband and brother both gave me some advice (at different times, but its just taking a while to sink in)... this is that I am there now, so in order for me to see if it's something I want I've got to be 'in' it... not always questioning it. I can set a time line for re-evaluation and do my best in the mean time.

By this, I mean part of what I have sensed in myself is... I have been a bit interally condesending to others around me in academia because I feel somehow that my motives and desires are "above" theirs. I may not be showing this externally, but I think this is contributing to my growing stress ball...

To answer ya'll questions (and they are good ones). I do want to get my PhD, this is because I want to be able to teach and as Patrick pointed out the title is necessary in the academic world. Everytime I am in the classroom I get energized and love interacting with students. The thing that I am not sure about is how this specific program fits in with what I want to teach. I chose it because I thought I wanted to broaden my scope of the world and how I and the organizations I am a part of relate to it, but to be honest (although that sounds good) I have never been interested in government and that hasn't changed... so I think that is where a lot of my questioning is coming from.

I also know that I do have a tendency to want to please people and prove myself and I do not want that drive my choices. Part of that right now is driving my questioning... because I feel this weight of needing to prove myself and fear failing miserably.

And lastly, growing to be like Christ and joining with my creator... I do feel like I am growing and learning and gaining ability to be part of God's kingdom on earth, but only when I get away from myself, my pride, my fears, my need for approval. when I take a step back and look at the big picture I see that I may be right where I am for larger reasons that I know. Can I be light in the ivory tower? Are my gifts and talents arranged in such a way that this is exactly where I am supposed to be?

I know this was VERY long, but there goes my thoughts.

Thanks again to Matt, Shannon, and Patrick and all others who take the time to read my ramblings.

Anonymous said...

Traci - what a great post - honest, searching & open to how God is using your life right now & in the future.

In my experience, the short answer to your question is yes - it is normal, especially someone like you, as Patrick has said is "wired for action and service." Corey struggled with many of these same issues in seminary - God's place in academia. I remember him saying "what is the point of this?"

It is also normal when you pursue something you think you are being lead to do, but don't know for sure - when you are being stretched. Some times we make decisions for reasons we don't really understand until we are faced with the struggle. When I was at this stage, I did the same thing - I hated law school, and decided to give it one more semester - if I was not convinced it was what my call was, at that point, I would chuck it all and do something else. Here I am today, and not always convinced - even 27 years later, that I made the right choice for the right reasons because I was not always asking the right questions.

You are asking the right questions - when you enter this "liminal" space, you have to be patient enough for God to work with us to find His answer for us - which is not the same answer He will ncessarily give to someone else.

The advice Patrick got about making career choice based on your passions - is very wise counsel.

The good news is that at this level there is no decision you make which will be a "bad one" as long as you make your decision after prayer and become convinced that you can and will serve Him with your gifts acting on that decision.

Keep seeking, knocking, and listening - you will find the answer. Who knows the answer may come sooner than you had expected.

Love your heart!


Anonymous said...

hi honey,I was wondering if it might be a good idea to go talk with one of your Communications profs that you have a good relationship with and see what advice they would give you IF you decided that this particular program was not the one for you.

i know when i start 'looking down on people' in my head, it's usually cause i feel threatened in some way. I think it's a natural human reation to insecurity that occurs in new situations. It's awesome that the Holy Spirit won't let you stay there... but than you are stripped of your defnse mechanisms and left vulnerable. (I have had much experience with these feelings!!!) Then I've had to open myself up to support and prayer from those who love me and risk them thinking I'm weak or something horrible like that!! (ha ha) anyway- sorry girl- you've got the anxiety/perfectionist rebel Christian thing goin on from all genetic pools in a variety of interesting forms. it does make life interesting. I'm so glad you have great friends and a funny husband! I'm glad you are you. Keep on "Running with the horses!"
(Eugene Peterson- great book on Jeremiah) You inspire us all.
love, mom

traci said...

Thanks Dad! I have also received some wsdom from others who have gone before me in the pursuit of PhD and am getting similar responses... I have come to the conclusion that I need to be patient (again)... Seriously, I need to learn about patience. This may be a theme in life for me.

Breathe, trust, ask, seek, question, relax, peace, patience

Patrick said...

One more thing. I really think that us youngsters still think that we are supposed to or have to do one thing the rest of our lives. We don't! That was my huge struggle with deciding to go to B-school. I thought it may lock me into one particular path. And while I love the fact that I work as a developer now, it scared me that the intersection of my gifts and passions might shift years from now to the place that working as a developer isn't the best fit for me.

The truth is we CAN change what it is that we "do." The struggle guys face (perhaps it is similar for girls?) is in defining ourselves by what our vocational work is. We define, or name ourselves, based on that instead of allowing God to name us. I really believe that places way to much undue pressure on our career decisions then. I don't in anyway mean to minimize your struggles or thoughts in saying that, rather I hope to say that God has given you your name already. The rest of this is just working out the details of what it sounds or looks like. My hope and prayer is that God will give you the proper perspective of where this role or calling fits into your overall role/calling as a child of God.

Anonymous said...

Patrick is cool.

Shannon Smith said...

Obviously, you haven't met Patrick.

My response passed the SCLT (Shannon Comment Length Threshold). So, it became a post on my blog.

Kim Smith said...

Traci - when I am having a hard time dealing with something, I often refer to a list that I made of great quotes that I have come across over the years... here are a few that might speak to you...

"To be truly happy, I've learned, I must accept my present circumstances as they are, accept myself as I am, and accept the people around me as they are. On top of all that, it's also necessary -- though incredibly difficult -- to accept that God's got a plan that is unfolding every day exactly as He wants. Our mission is to go where God wants us to go and do what He wants us to do." - from "The Miracle of Change" by Dennis Wholey

Grace Prayer:
For Thee I thirst.
Into Thy hands
I commit my spirit
Thy will is my will.
Thy will be done through me.
Heal me at depth.
Reveal that which needs to be revealed.
Heal that which needs to be healed
So I can glorify you, God
And live in the fullness of grace.

-- Wings of Spirit Foundation

“It’s never too late to be who you might have been.” – George Eliot

I love you!

Anonymous said...

kim and shannon are cool too.

jason said...

Traci, you are a stud (you know what I mean.) Thanks for wrestling through this stuff. Not asking questions and running blindly can often put you in a place wondering how you got there.

I read Shannon's first post and thought... heck yeah!!! on all 3 points (and about Matt's internet viewing)... Then I read Patricks and thought, wow... great thoughts. Then everyone else and I was like - this is great.

That got me thinking we should have a group of people the really challenged each other to become what they were created for and encouraging them to live that out. :) Thanks for all you being willing to live wrestle with this stuff together.

in the end... degrees are helpful. They help us gain credability in the system we live in. On some level, however, we have to ask ourselves... "is this a system I am called to concern myself with and then to what degree?" - asked in a different way - the tough part is it is prolly different for each of us. I had more to say but this would have to be really long... I will leave this... God has tremendous hope in you... whatever you are doing.