30 April 2009

Still going and going and going...

I officially submitted my thesis yesterday, and I should be relaxing, but I can't stop feeling like I need to get something done. I have more work to do in order to not fail out of my classes this semester, but that should be straightforward. Despite this, I'm still in lab, ostensibly doing work (though not really). I just can't get out of the habit of being here 'til I crash, and then driving home half-awake and crawling into bed, in order to wake up and do it all again. My inner mechanism hasn't yet reset itself from the frenetic pace of this past semester.

I'm of two minds about my current workiness*. On the one hand, this type of work ethic (bordering on pathology, and I know it) will serve me well in graduate school. I'm not the smartest cookie in the batch, but if I work my tail off, I'll be able to keep up. Also, it doesn't hurt to have the appearance of diligence; even if I'm not as productive as I could be every moment in lab, because I'm here all the time, I seem to be very committed to my work.

On the other hand, I'm in lab all the time. That means I have no social life, and the skills I'm building are entirely specific to future lab work, not to, say, interacting with humans. I went out to dinner tonight with some friends, who incidentally work one building over on campus, and whom I haven't seen since late January. At some point, people are going to lose patience and give up on me as a social partner. The ratio of productivity to time is also lower when I'm in lab a lot (though total productivity might be higher) because, in order to not completely burn out, I have to spend a non-trivial amount of time doing non-work things, like surfing the internet, replying to personal emails, writing blog entries, and so forth. Of course, I'd probably do these things at home as well; I don't like being home for reasons that I may or may not decide to blog about eventually. However, time in lab might be more effectively spent if there was less of it and I felt pressed to get stuff done while here.

I don't know how I feel about my workiness. Some of it has to do with home-avoidance, certainly, and that will hopefully be remedied when I move to a new city next year. Some of it has to do with proving my worth, either to myself or to others: I want to know that I can spend lots of time in lab, because that seems to be what everyone needs to do to be "successful" by the standards of academia. I don't think actually spending the time is required for success, but other blog entries I've read suggest that not spending the time can be a hinderance with respect to appearances, regardless of quality of work. I suppose I don't need to buy into the monomaniacal lifestyle, but it's easy to judge myself by the established standards for success. Also, lab-hours gives me some measure to compare myself to other people, which makes me feel better about my position as a trainee scientist.

So, I'll probably stay in lab a while longer before calling it a night. Maybe I'll work on classwork that's due for Monday, but more likely I'll surf the web and get some personal tasks done. Once my supply of Oreos is depleted, maybe I'll think about heading homeward for the night.

* If Stephen Colbert can do it, so can I.

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